September is knocking on the door, and what tech pundits have aptly dubbed the Summer of Android is quickly drawing to a close. The summer months have been good to Google’s mobile operating system, with Android sales trouncing iPhone OS sales in Q2 of 2010 and nearly every major cell phone manufacturer bidding for a lucrative seat on the Android bandwagon.
Three OEMs arguably won big this summer, leveraging the Android platform and developing hardware that gave Apple’s iPhone a run for its money. Motorola released the second coming of its original blockbuster along with a brawny game changer that would match the HTC EVO 4G in screen size. HTC proffered up America’s first 4G-capable smartphone in addition to a compact and speedy Verizon Wireless challenger. Samsung even stepped up its Android game, promising to bring the Galaxy S Series to all four major U.S. carriers.
With 10 Android phones hitting Wirefly’s virtual shelves since the early days of summer alone (9 if you count the already-released members of the Samsung Galaxy S fleet as one), selecting the five best Android phones that money can buy was no easy feat. Yet, despite some difficult decisions and perhaps some unavoidable bruised egos and hurt feelings, we persevered.
DROID Incredible by HTC (Verizon Wireless)
Although the DROID Incredible is the elder of our top five, it certainly fell into the realm of the incredible when we first laid eyes on it, and we’re still taken by HTC’s compact full touchscreen device months later. The Incredible runs HTC’s impressive Sense user interface over top of Android version 2.1.
Among the first in a new crop of super-fast smartphones with a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, the DROID Incredible also offers 512MB of RAM, an 8-megapixel camera with dual LED flash and autofocus, a high-resolution 3.7-inch display, and 8 gigabytes of on-board storage space.
A recent update to the DROID Incredible brought the device the ability to record HD video at 720P and serve as a mobile hotspot. An update to Android version 2.2 Froyo is expected before month’s end.
HTC EVO 4G (Sprint)
With a number of claims to fame including possessing the moniker of America’s first 4G-capable smartphone and being the pioneer in amply-sized displays, Sprint’s HTC EVO 4G caused quite a stir with its initial release in June and was met with lengthy lines and (mostly) rave reviews.
The HTC EVO 4G is the first U.S. device capable of operating on a 4G network, bringing the smartphone broadband-like speeds in cities where Sprint’s next-generation wireless network is available. With a never-before-seen 4.3-inches of display real estate, the HTC EVO also arguably jumpstarted a movement toward ever-larger smartphone screen sizes (see Motorola’s DROID X).
Like the DROID Incredible, the EVO 4G also boasts HTC’s Sense user interface. The device is equipped with the Incredible’s same speedy 1 GHz Snapdragon processor, 512MB of RAM, a front-facing camera for video chat, HDMI output, and an 8-megapixel rear camera with the ability to record HD-quality video at 720P.
Motorola DROID 2 (Verizon Wireless)
Few would contest that Motorola’s original DROID – and its $100 million plus advertising campaign – triggered the Android platform’s ascent to glory. The second coming of Motorola’s DROID, the DROID 2, is sleeker, faster, and in quite a few ways substantially better than the Schaumburg-based company’s original superstar.
The DROID 2 has been upgraded with a 1 GHz processor, much-improved keyboard, more mainstream design (sans gold accents), better battery life and mobile hotspot support. The DROID 2 also boasts Android 2.2 Froyo right out of the box.
Despite the many improvements over its predecessor, the DROID 2 still packs a 5-megapixel camera with dual LED flash and autofocus that is limited to recording DVD-quality video rather than HD-quality video like the rest of its top five counterparts.
Motorola DROID X (Verizon Wireless)
Surprising much of the wireless world with its enviable popularity, Motorola’s DROID X joins the HTC EVO 4G in the growing club of well endowed smartphones. The DROID X touts a crisp 4.3-inch display, 1 GHz processor, HDMI output for connectivity with an HD display, and an 8-megapixel camera with dual LED flash and the ability to record HD-quality video.
The DROID X is expected to get its own taste of Froyo in the next month or so, and has been recovering from its early supply issues slowly but surely.
Samsung Galaxy S Series (T-Mobile, AT&T)
It’s rare to find a smartphone as promiscuous as the Samsung Galaxy S. Already available on T-Mobile and AT&T, versions of the Samsung Galaxy S are also slated to land on Verizon Wireless and Sprint in the coming weeks.
Differing slightly in form factor and some pre-installed goodies, the Samsung Galaxy S fleet (Vibrant for T-Mobile, Captivate for AT&T, Fascinate for Verizon Wireless, and Epic 4G for Sprint) largely sports the same specs including a…well, vibrant Super AMOLED display, 1 GHz processor, and 5-megapixel on-board camera with HD video recording capability.
Inspiring jealousy among its Galaxy S-branded brethren, the Epic 4G adds connectivity to Sprint’s 4G network along with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard and front-facing camera for video chat.