1 HTC Desire
The HTC Desire, in my opinion, is the best Android handset currently on offer. Released within months of the Google Nexus One, HTC's Desire is an almost identical twin of its older brother, only better.
It sports the same 3.7-inch AMOLED display as the Nexus One, but has a finer colour depth compared to Nexus One’s over-saturated colours. And at least from my experience, it is a lot more responsive too, with touch inputs reacting as exactly as they should. The 1 GHz Snapdragon processor makes its return, but this time around it’s backed by 576 MB of RAM instead of 512 MB found on the Nexus One. The five megapixel camera with LED and autofocus takes some beautiful shots. A wide variety of connectivity options as well as a microSD slot continues the trend with HTC’s previous handsets. An FM radio also makes its way in.
Like the Nexus Once, Desire features ‘live’ wallpapers. But it also has something Nexus One doesn’t, HTC’s Sense UI, which offers you no less than seven home screens to customise with apps, widgets, web shortcuts and more. Despite lacking a physical keyboard, typing on the Desire is like cruise control. The responsiveness of the on-screen keyboard coupled with scarily accurate text prediction and auto correction, I dare say, surpasses even the iPhone.
As far as looks are concerned, the Desire is a great looking device. At first glance, it is almost indistinguishable from the Nexus One. Upon close inspection however, you will find some subtle differences. The shell has a slightly darker tone and brings back HTC’s signature ‘lip’, but only slightly. The trackball has been replaced with an optical trackpad that works like a charm. Gone too are the touch-sensitive buttons of the Nexus One, which have been replaced with tactile buttons, placed on both sides of the trackpad.
One other important detail that differentiates the Desire from the Nexus One is cost. It is cheaper both unlocked and on contract despite being a newer, better device overall. Since it has been available at retail from the outset, the phone has already seen a tremendous commercial success with all the major networks struggling to keep up with demands, which goes to show the opportunity Google’s missed with the launch of the Nexus One. The search giant must not have been too pleased to see HTC releasing a handset so closely resembling the Nexus One, but that’s a different story.
Verdict: If you want the best Android handset or simply a great smartphone, you simply cannot go wrong with the HTC Desire.
2 Google Nexus One
Don’t be shocked to see the Nexus One is second place. It really was a tough choice that ultimately came down to a few small but important details.
There is no denying that the Nexus One is an excellent smartphone that represents the best aspects of the Android platform. It has a 3.7-inch AMOLED touchscreen with an eye-popping resolution, ambient lighting, proximity sensor and accelerometer, a five megapixel camera with LED flash, auto focus and geo tagging, but perhaps most importantly, a 1 GHz Snapdragon processor with both 512 MB of RAM and ROM, that allows for many advanced capabilities such 720p video playback. It also brings into the fold an additional microphone and a noise-cancelling voice processor that suppresses background noise during phone calls to provide excellent voice clarity.
The Nexus One being Google’s brainchild also means you can expect it to run the latest and greatest apps that Android has to offer with seamless integration with all of Google’s applications and services. Google introduced a voice search feature that works adequately. Then there is a ‘Live’ wallpaper feature that allows you to customise the phone’s wallpaper with more interesting backgrounds that react to your touch.
Design of the handset is clean and minimalist, with four touch-sensitive buttons - back, menu, home and search - that are essentially a part of the screen and placed in exactly the same order as the Motorola Milestone. An illuminated trackball is placed right below which can emit different colours of light based on the type of notification being received.
There are some minor niggles too, mainly to do with the responsiveness and accuracy of the touchscreen. It’s as if the display is not properly calibrated to the correct height that causes you to often tap too high or low in some applications. It’s not a deal breaker but one of those things that remind you that nothing is perfect.
Verdict: A super-fast but expensive handset with all the goodies you'd expect from a modern smartphone.
3 HTC Legend
The Legend caught us by surprise. Not only is it a great smartphone, it is a truly gorgeous looking device, and sturdy, too, thanks to the silky smooth aluminium casing. It comes with a beautiful 3.2-inch AMOLED (Active-Matrix OLED) display with ambient lighting, a very responsive 600MHz Qualcomm processor, a decent five megapixel camera with widescreen photo capture and geo tagging, an assortment of connectivity options, and of course, the de facto standard microSD slot for all your storage needs of up to 32GB.
The HTC Sense UI is present, as is a new ‘Friend Stream’ feature that collects all your Twitter and Facebook updates into one manageable screen, albeit not as elegantly as Sony Ericsson X10’s Timescape. While there is no physical keyboard to type with, the Legend’s onscreen keyboard is excellent with text prediction and auto correction that makes messaging and emailing a breeze.
While looks can be subjective, the Legend, in my view, is the best looking Android yet. Every detail seems to have been carefully crafted like it were a sculpture. The physical buttons are very well designed and integrated to make them seem like a part of the screen. It’s hard not to appreciate the thought HTC has put into the look and feel of this phone.
If there’s one thing that holds the Legend down, it is the battery life, which drains pretty fast with moderate use and needs charging daily. Fortunately, the battery is easily removable, so you can always carry a spare if you are away on a long commute.
Verdict: Beautiful, sexy, and excellent for social networking and messaging. The Legend is aptly named for bringing together the best of HTC’s Android efforts to date.
4 HTC Hero
The HTC Hero oozes mannish charms. While opinions may clash over its ‘chin’ as some would call it, I think it gives the phone bit of an edge over the homogenous smartphone designs of the post-iPhone era. To knock it would really be nitpicking on an otherwise very polished and handsome looking device.
In terms of design and layout, the Hero descends from the same family tree as the G1 and the Magic and therefore shares many of the design elements of its predecessors such as screen size, button placements and basic aesthetics. Under the hood, however, it is practically the same beast, meaning it comes with the same range of CPU, RAM, ROM and storage capacity as its forbears. While that does make things less interesting, it is mainly the Hero’s unconventional design and rock-solid build that helps it stand out from the pack. Although the screen is basically the same as the Magic, which is great by the way, it has the same smudge resistant material as the iPhone 3GS, which is pretty neat, too.
It’s not without its issues though. The placement of the physical buttons immediately above the chin can get pretty uncomfortable with prolonged use. Other than that, there is not to fault the Hero. It is indeed a risky but valiant effort by HTC.
Verdict: It’s not a huge leap over the G1 and the HTC Magic but the Hero is certainly a device that thrives on its unconventional design and sophistication.
5 Sony Ericsson Xperia X10
The Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 may have taken a long time, some would say too long, to come out that allowed much of the hype for the phone to dissipate, but I feel the wait was worth it.
It's the company’s first-ever smartphone to run the Android platform and is a beautiful device with its gigantic 4-inch touchscreen that is superb for video playback. It is however ‘Timescape’, a feature that merges all your social network updates as well as missed calls and text messages into an attractive vertical ‘stream’ of photos of your contacts that impressed me the most about the X10. A similarly named ‘Mediascape’ feature organises all your multimedia content and even automatically searches for extra content from the web.
Aside from running the Android OS, the X10 also brings Sony Ericsson’s new UX platform into the fold and includes the PlayNow application that allows you to download music, games and apps directly to the device.
Of course, a Sony Ericsson phone wouldn’t be complete without a camera. The X10 comes with a full-fledged eight megapixel snapper with LED flash, autofocus, face recognition, smile detection and geo tagging to boot. There is only 1GB of internal storage but an 8GB memory card is included, which can be doubled to 16GB.
Verdict: It can be a little sluggish at times, but the X10 is still a very powerful and elegant multimedia smartphone.
6 Motorola Milestone
The Motorola Milestone is a particularly masculine and industrious looking device, teaming uncompromising angles with a metallic exterior of black and bronze that could be straight off the set of an 80s sci-fi film. The 3.7-inch, 854x480 touch-sensitive display with a pixel density of 267ppi, is bigger, sharper than the iPhone, and easily one of the best I’ve seen on an Android phone. In terms of raw CPU power, the Milestone’s ARM Cortex A8 600 MHz chip is in the same league as the Palm Pre and iPhone 3GS.
It’s not without its flaws though. The five megapixel camera (with dual LED flash, geo tagging and autofocus) quite frankly, is abysmal compared to similar resolution cameras found on HTC’s handsets. The slide-out physical QWERTY keyboard is welcome but poorly designed and the keys are completely flat, which makes it difficult to know if you’re pressing them right. The auto correction usually kicks in when mistakes are made, but in this rare instance I actually prefer the on-screen touch keyboard more. The directional pad is also not as fluid as a trackball but is better for navigating around text.
Like most Androids, the Milestone relies on a microSD slot for storage capacity. It comes with an 8GB microSD card but can be expanded to up to 32GB.
Verdict: Despite its flaws the Milestone is still a great handset and arguably one of the best that Android has to offer.
7 HTC Magic
The HTC Magic was the second handset by HTC to use the Android platform. It features a 3.2-inch HVGA capacitive touchscreen that can be used with both finger touch and a standard stylus. Although many of the hardware features of the Magic are very similar to that of its predecessor, the G1, such as the ARM-based dual core processor, 3.2-megapixel camera with autofocus, microSD slot for memory expansion (it comes with a 4GB microSD card), accelerometer, trackball and so on, it does not have a physical keyboard. Instead, text input is done via a very responsive on-screen keyboard, which can be set to provide both haptic and sound feedback from key presses.
The absence of a physical keyboard also means Magic is a considerably smaller, thinner and lighter device than the G1, making it a much better fit in our hands and pockets. It looks much better too, in my opinion, with its curved edges and shiny finish that gives the device a much softer, more elegant appearance.
Verdict: Despite its similarities to the G1 and the lack of a physical keyboard, the Magic is a highly aesthetically pleasing and pocketable device.
8 LG Intouch Max GW620
The LG Intouch Max GW620 is the first handset from LG for the Android platform. It is a side-slider handset featuring a spacious five-row QWERTY keyboard that is simply a joy to type on. Although the handset is much thicker than the latest crop of smartphones, it is still a pretty slick looking device.
What really sets the GW620 apart from its peers though is its affordability. It is comparably cheaper than its rivals despite packing many of the bells and whistles you would expect from a top-notch smartphone, including a modest three-inch HVGA touchscreen, a five megapixel camera with LED flash, accelerometer, proximity sensor, which kills the screen when you bring the phone to your ear, a photo speed dialer that uses face-recognition software to tell who’s who in a photo, and multiple connectivity options including HSDPA, Wi-Fi (b/g) and Bluetooth.
Verdict: For users making their first leap into the smartphone era, the Intouch Max GW620 is great value for money.
9 T-Mobile G1
The T-Mobile G1 by HTC is the first ever handset to carry the Android OS on its bosom. For this alone we felt it deserved a spot in our list.
When the Android platform was in its infancy, the G1 was one of the few compelling alternatives to the original iPhone and it held its own admirably for nearly a year as the only Android released anywhere to feature a full horizontal sliding QWERTY keyboard. A 3.2-inch HVGA touch-sensitive screen, a multi-tasking capable 528 MHz ARM-based dual-core processor, a 3.2-megapixel camera with autofocus as well as a trackball and 3-axis accelerometer are also part of the package. Although the onboard flash memory is a paltry 256MB, it can be easily expanded to up to 16GB through the microSD slot. There is not much in terms of extras, though a range of connectivity options such as an HTC ExtUSB port, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi (b/g) and GPS are supported.
Verdict: It may be less glamorous than most smartphones, but for those who wanted a more practical, substance-over-style smartphone, the G1 definitely fits the bill.
10 HTC Tattoo
The HTC Tattoo is one of the most compact Android handsets out there, weighing in at just 113 grams. It features a slightly smaller 2.8-inch resistive touchscreen, 3.2-megapixel camera (no flash or autofocus, unfortunately), microSD slot, accelerometer and even an FM radio thrown in for good measure. Wi-Fi (b/g), Bluetooth 2.0 (with A2DP for wireless headset support) and a micro USB port are all present for connectivity. Plus there is A-GPS support and a digital compass for mapping and navigation applications. The Tattoo also benefits from HTC’s highly intuitive Sense UI - an interface that is laid on top of the existing Android OS to allow customisable widgets and shortcuts on multiple homescreens.
The battery life is excellent and despite its smaller, plastic-y exterior, the Tattoo’s build quality is as good as we have come to expect from HTC. It is also the first HTC handset to support customisable covers.
Verdict: Though it is quite dated by today’s standards, due to its size and quality the Tattoo is still a very solid and capable member of the Android family.
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