In a matter of weeks time you’ll barely be able to move in a market crowded with high-end Android kit. But which one’s most deserving of your hard-earned smartphone buck? We’ve put three of the year’s most-anticipated handsets through their paces to find out.
Revolt into style
The real looker of this year’s Android crop is the HTC Incredible S, which features a muted matte finish, novel raised panel on the back and industrial look that means it wouldn’t look out of place behind the bar at the Hacienda.
Alas, none of these efforts get anywhere near it for style. But the Desire S is presentable, thanks to the smart aluminium case that recalls the original Android style warrior the Wildfire:
The Optimus 3D, meanwhile, looks like a pretty generic high-end smartie and loses points for being slightly chunkier than its rivals:
That leaves the field open for the Galaxy S2. Measuring just 125.3 x 66.1 x 8.49mm, it’s the thinnest smartphone so far (eat that iPhone 4!) and romps home here by a country mile.
Winner: Erm, the Incredible S? Can we not have that? Okay, the Galaxy S2.
The end of the megapixel wars has been cited as proof positive that modern smartphone buyers aren’t too interested in imaging capabilities. Not so. It’s just that these days they’ve got a very different set of priorities. Nowhere is that more in evidence than in the profusion of smarties this year packing dual cameras for video calling.
It comes as no surprise then that secondary rear mounted snappers for just that purpose are all present and correct in the Samsung Galaxy S2, Desire S and LG Optimus 3D. Take yourself around the front and there’s still little to choose between the functional but unspectacular snappers, although the S2's eight megapixel number trumps its rivals' five megapixel numbers.
However, for us the LG Optimus 3D wins out for bringing 3D snapping, video recording and playback to smartphones for the first time ever. All without the need for silly glasses. Gimmicky, you say? Possibly. A deal breaker? Almost certainly not - not for most folk, anyway. But even so, 3D undeniably adds a fun twist and USP to LG’s effort. And by the time the novelty wears off, it’ll probably be time to upgrade anyway.
Verdict: If 3D is a gimmick, it’s a good one. The LG Optimus walks this one.
Princess of Power
In keeping with most of the top-end Android handsets incoming this year, the Optimus 3D and Galaxy S2 run on mighty dual core processors. Not only does that allow to them to run at a lick to shame most Olympic athletes, it also maximises battery life, by enabling faster and slicker app switching and adds that vital feeling of snap you crave from a new bit of kit.
But when the memo went around about dual cores, it seems HTC didn’t get it. The Desire S packs a 1GHz processor. That’s not to say that it’s slow or lacks grunt. The Desire S is at least as quick as its predecessors the original Desire and Desire HD. It’s just that next to the competition here, it all feels a bit last gen.
Verdict: The Galaxy S2 nicks it with its 1.2GHz number. Blacks mark all around for HTC.
Assault and battery
Modern smartphones’ poor battery performance is one of Top10.com’s main bugbears of existence. Alas, at the time of writing, battery life gen for these three smarties wasn’t available. But the dual core processors that feature in the Galaxy S2 and Optimus 3D ought to ensure they’ll be less inclined than the Desire S to conk out when you most need them. However, we’d be surprised if recording in 3D with your Optimus doesn’t mash the battery like Billy-O.
Verdict: The Desire S’s power efficient Super LCD screen means it's got what it takes to outlast the competition.
Three laws of robotics
Sammy & HTC’s phones both run the latest version of Google’s OS, Android 2.3, AKA Gingerbread, out of the box. LG’s Optimus 3D, however, ships with the ageing Froyo iteration of the platform - albeit a 3D revamp thereof - but we’re promised an update soon after it goes on sale.
What that means is that if you choose the Galaxy S2, you’ll be able to get on board with all the new features Google has added with Gingerbread straight away – think: Near Field Communication (NFC) tech for Oyster card-style contactless payments, a task killer for apps that refuse to play ball and an all-new keyboard that’s faster and more intuitive to type on.
Grab the Optimus 3D or HTC Desire S, though, and you’ll have to wait a while. How long that is depends on the carrier you choose and how quickly they can get Gingerbread to work with their proprietary services. Given how long it took some UK networks to get Froyo through testing and then push it out, you’d be advised not to hold your breath.
Verdict: Desire S and Galaxy S2 win the day. For now.
Pay and display
Screen quality is one of the key differentiators between low and mid-range Android phones and the top of the range. Given that the Desire S, Galaxy S2 and Optimus 3D all feature premium price points, shonky, low-grade QVGA displays aren’t something you have to worry about here.
That said, it’s something of a disappointment that the Desire S features 4.3-inch Super LCD screen, which means it’s actually a bit worse than the original Desire. For this, you can blame the worldwide shortage in AMOLED screens. Still for all that, while it’s clearly not as pin-sharp as the displays that grace some of its rivals, it does mean that HTC’s challenger is that little bit less battery hungry.
The same goes for LG’s number, which is also 4.3-inches and Super LCD. But on the plus side, it is 3D capable – something that probably outweighs its shortcomings if you’re dead set on watching 3D movies on the move.
Samsung on the other hand appears to have a secret stash of AMOLED kit stashed away somewhere. The Galaxy S2 glories in a gloriously colourful, ultra high-res 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus display that really is the jewel in its starry crown. It’s also fashioned from the same scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass as the iPhone 4 display, so ought to stay looking good for longer, too.
Verdict: The Galaxy S2 all the way.
If you want to experience some of the best of what Android offers, you can’t go too far wrong with any of these. But for us the standout winner here is the Galaxy S2. It’s an excellent marriage of slim dimensions, raw processing brawn and cutting-edge Android functionality.