What’s your favorite Android underdog? Who do you root for?

by: Bogdan PetrovanOctober 11, 2013

The-Friday-Debate aa

Evan Forester

On this edition of the Friday Debate, we discuss underdogs. Everyone loves a good underdog story, and the world of tech regularly offers examples of companies that were dismissed as failures, only to prove ultimately naysayers wrong. So, who’s your favorite Android underdog? What company deserves to be on top but isn’t for some reason? Who would you want to see replace Samsung as king of the hill?

Join us in the discussion, vote in our poll, and sound off in the comments!

Joseph Hindy

This is a good question because there really isn’t an OEM that I don’t like and it’s hard to determine what an underdog is. HTC has lost a lot of market share in recent years, but are they not still a big dog in the world of Android? I would say they are. Same with LG, Motorola, and Sony. They don’t have the clout that Samsung has, but that doesn’t mean that they’re underdogs right?

Personally, I’ve always liked Xiaomi because they challenge what we know about smartphones. In China, they were able to become quickly popular by building quality handsets and selling them at cost to promote their brand. I think this is a genius idea and it makes me wonder why the Nexus brand hasn’t taken off, given it has the same business model (sell cheap, make money off your platform instead of off hardware). In China, at least, Xiaomi has been boxing it out with the big dogs for over a year now and still holds its ground. That’s impressive.

Word around the rumor mill is that Xiaomi will be expanding out of China eventually and when that happens they’ll be the true definition of an underdog. A new OEM, challenging the preconceived notions that all great smartphones need to cost $700-$1000. I would love to see a Xiaomi phone make it to Europe and the US, available on the biggest carriers while still going for the $200-$300 their devices go for off contract. Mostly out of personal curiosity. Also, this would introduce a new OEM skin to Android (MIUI) on a grander scale. This gives people even more options and even though stock Android is great, options are better!

Robert Triggs

Well there’s definitely a case to be made that most manufacturers are a little hard done by Samsung’s huge market dominance. I wouldn’t mind seeing everyone with a little bit more market share, just to keep Samsung on its toes and provide a little more competition to benefit the consumer.

But if there’s one company that I think definitely deserves a larger share of the Android market then it would have to be LG. As well as manufacturing the brilliant Nexus 4, the company has consistently put out decent hardware in both the top and middle tiers of the smartphone market, just look at the new LG G2.

LG isn’t just a company that produces handsets with top of the line specs, its pricing is also usually a tad cheaper than the other Android manufactures. They’re probably the company offering the best value for consumers right now. For example, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is sold in the UK for around £650, whilst the newer and higher spec LG G2 can be bought for SIM free for just £590.

I’d also like to see Nexus devices in general take up a larger share of the smartphone and tablet markets. Google’s default Android experience is definitely something that more consumers should experience, compared with the bloated software suites of Samsung and other manufacturers.

Simon Hill

Samsung’s domination isn’t good for anyone except Samsung. I’ve always liked Sony products and its mobile offerings have improved a lot lately. Since the Ericsson name was dropped, the new Xperia range look and feel more like Sony products. The Xperia Z led the new flagship charge and the Z1 is a nice update.

I still have some lingering goodwill for HTC as well because the Desire was my first Android phone. The HTC One deserved to do better, but even with great reviews it couldn’t compete with the Galaxy S4 and that’s probably more to do with marketing spend than the quality of the smartphones.

For a real underdog I’d like to see Fairphone do well. It’s about time someone exposed the widespread use of conflict minerals and made it clear that you can manufacture a decent smartphone without exploiting your suppliers or manufacturers.

Bogdan Petrovan

Though Sony is hardly a “small guy”, when compared to Samsung, pretty much every Android maker seems an underdog. Like Simon, I have a soft spot for them, for reasons I can’t really pinpoint. I guess I just like their designs and their hardware, and I yearn for a great comeback story.

An OEM that I think people (and especially people in the media) are too dismissive of is LG. I guess that’s a problem of brand image, but, really, LG has been doing some great stuff in the past year and deserve more credit than they get.

A true underdog? Probably Oppo, a company that relatively few people know about now, but I think more will in the future. Oppo has been doing a lot of things right with its devices and the CyanogenMod partnership means the software part is pretty much covered. I hope they make it big.

What do YOU think?

Join us in the comments and vote in our poll.

[poll id=”388″]

  • ProudToBePinoy

    I love Sony too guys :D

  • charlie brown

    i would love to see oppo get more love the find 5 was great the n1 is a very nice phone also

  • Jack Parker

    The reason why the nexus brands never became a hit is because stores buy them from google ( for example the Nexus 4 for £239 for the 8gb and £279 for the 16gb ) and then sell them for £400 +

    • That’s not happening in the U.S.. Walmart sells the Nexus 7 for the same price as the Google Play Store and I prefer to buy it from Walmart. But the best part of the Nexus Brand is its price tag. Its half the price of many top brands. $229 for Nexus 7.

      • Jack Parker

        Yeah they’re cheap and great but id say 75% of the people who buy smartphones dont know about the nexus line and that you can buy them from google direct and save £200+

    • Ivan Budiutama

      that, and actually because in Nexus (play store version), the region is very limited, the non-play store price tag is average, not expensive but not really cheap, just ordinary LG tags. US people are still Apple (iOS) minded. Android biggest market is Asia, and Xiaomi is sold at cost on the biggest part of Asia market: China. Simply put 1% out of 1 M user > 1% out of 100,000 user. In this case the Xiaomi (MIUI) vs Nexus

    • T.J.

      That and they don’t advertise them. Like, at all. The average consumer mainly buys what is on tv. Samsung and Apple are all over, as well as Droids.

    • Dave Weinstein

      YES! Google should dramatically expand the regions that they offer Nexus devices in directly from the Play Store.

      In Hong Kong, retail price of the Nexus 4 was twice the price of that they offered it for in the Play Store in the US. They seemed to have figured out how to control these excesses a bit, since the Nexus 7 (2013) came out at around the same price in local retail as the Pay Store device.

      We can only hope, that in their negotiations with LG for secondary market sales. that they put in strict pricing controls to make sure that the Nexus 4 price gouging didn’t occur again with the Nexus 5.

  • I would like to see more out of LG as well as more out of the Google Nexus brand. I have owned LG cell phones and Smartphones in the past and now I own Google Nexus products (GNex & Nexus 7 – 2012). I am hoping both brands improve. So I guess those would be my underdogs and who rooting for. And I haven’t had much of luck with Samsung, so I’m looking for something different.

  • Luka Mlinar

    Agreed. OPPO is the true underdog :)

  • Grman Rodriguez

    Sony all the way

  • MasterMuffin

    I’d have voted for Google, but I think that Oppo is more of an underdog than Google and with great devices and now almost as great custom ROM support as the Nexus line’s (they just need more buyers → more devs) it deserves the vote. Every Android manufacturer on that list can make great devices, so all of them deserve more sales though!

    • JosephHindy

      Google doesn’t make phones ;) so they’re not an OEM sir. The Nexus is made by LG…so really I’d be voting for LG :D

      • MasterMuffin

        Meh, Oppo!

      • Dave Weinstein

        You’re dead wrong in your analysis. Google is not not private labeling devices offered by ODMs, they are using the their software licencees as contract manufacturers.

        If we use your logic, then Apple isn’t a phone manufacturer either, since Foxconn is building Apple’s devices for them.

        As to LG, I like their hardware and build quality, but HATE their anti-open source stance.

        • JosephHindy

          I’m afraid I don’t understand any part of this comment.

          It isn’t the Google Nexus, it’s the HTC Nexus One, the Samsung Nexus S, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, the LG Nexus 4 and the LG Nexus 5. It is not the same as Apple because Apple doesn’t have a different OEM make their devices. They make them, then contract the manufacturing to Foxconn. Apple makes the phone and someone else manufactures it. That is not the same as what Google does at all. So I’m afraid nothing you said is correct. Google is not a smartphone OEM. They have never actually made a smartphone or a tablet. Other OEMs have and Google puts their officially branded software on it and calls it a Nexus. That’s how it works.

          • Dave Weinstein

            Well, it looks like we’re going to disagree.

            Taking a look at Google’s Play Store, you’ll see that it is just the “Nexus 4”, “Nexus 7”, and “Nexus 10”. And Google is more open than Apple about who they use for contract manufacturing. In fact, as you pointed out, they try to use the manufacturers brand as a marketing tool.

            With that said, Google makes ALL the decisions, provides ALL the software, and is in every way “making the phone that someone else is manufacturing”.

            It’s not true that other manufacturers can just slap a “Nexus” label on devices and get Google to support the software. You’re confusing Nexus with “Google Edition” devices.

          • JosephHindy

            No, no I’m not. You’re trying to edge your way around me with semantics and, unfortunately, it isn’t going to work. LG makes the Nexus devices based on their Optimus devices. Google requests a few small changes so they can sell it for cheaper, but the Nexus product is based on (and made with mostly the same parts as) a phone that already exists. The Nexus 4 was a modified Optimus G. The Nexus 5 will be a modified Optimus G2. They are not unique phones, they are modified versions of existing hardware. Who makes the Nexus 4? LG. Who makes the Nexus 5? LG. What are they based on? Their Optimus line with Google-requested changes. Who makes the iPhone? Apple. What is it based on? Nothing. Google is NOT an original equipment manufacturer. They are a software companie who puts their hardware on devices made by original equipment manufacturers and sells it as a coherent product. Nexus is NOT an OEM.

  • wat


  • Bakirsaad200

    I would not want anyone to be better than Samsung. Because Samsung is my favorite brand and i have the Note 3 in my hands at this moment. But I think Oppo is the best underdog.

  • cvgordo

    +1 for oppo. google shouldn’t count.

  • Genti Xhanari

    I find it hard voting because every phone those companies make have something special that the others don’t and so much in common too. I personally have a Samsung Galaxy S4 and I’m glad I bought this phone because it suits me better than any other phone, but what I’m trying to say is that all these companies dominate the market in their own ways. These companies made Android what it is today. That’s what’s so special about Android, it’s diversity, all these Android variants in different hardware and designs for different kind of users. In the end it all comes down to what special feature those companies bring to you.

  • trwb

    The poll is messed. Acer got 1% with zero votes.

  • MITM

    Im an HTC fanboy through and through

  • Grman Rodriguez

    What happened to Kris?

  • Tyler

    Sony, I like their phillophy. Keep android stock like and make small improvements; offer best in class build quality; go for the best camera available.

    However I do like my LG G2 greater than the Z1 I had (and sold) recently.

    I also hope HTC pulls through their tough financial times; they make great handsets and it would be a shame to see them go.

  • If Oppo comes in the U.S, everyone will love them!

  • KL Wong

    Waiting for the Oppo N1 – hurry up, Oppo! Rooting for Oppo for sure, and hoping that it will always get good CM support.

    • Dave Weinstein

      no need to root it for CM support.

      but no LTE. so maybe you should wait for the N2 or N3 or whatever it ends up being when Oppo finally adds 4G.

  • Scott Ricketts

    Loved my Nexus One, led me to the Thunderbolt which was pure crap. I swore I’d never get another HTC again. Had the Galaxy Nexus – really nice but the camera wasn’t that great. Nexus 4, same issue: average camera, but the lack of storage really killed me. Finally went back to HTC with the One, and I love this phone. Hackable, a plethora of ROMs, great camera, screen, sound, I can’t say enough good about it. Waiting to see what the Nexus 5 holds, maybe come tax returns I’ll upgrade.

  • Cecil

    I’m a Sony fanboy but they are going to ignore the US carriers I’ll have to turn elsewhere. Dont really understand the Xiaomi love? They dont look any better than those GooPhones that come out. Their UI is way to iOS like and their new phone looks exactly like a Lumia. Android fans shouldnt support such blatant copying, just get an iPhone/Lumia.

  • needa

    one loses all street cred when they call the nexus 4 brilliant. decent, cheap, and worth the buy if you just busted your good phone and are still on contract. but other than that, the nexus is way overrated. it sounds like this next one has better internals. thanks to sacrificing some cheddar on the outside. only time will tell.

  • fusuy

    I love Sony coz they listen to costumer
    Really also love Asus for their tablets
    HTC for their build quality
    But I voted for xiaomi coz of mi3 and I really want to see it becoming a MNC

  • Kettzy

    Why is it samsung vs. Everyone else?When samsung stepped into the market even samsung was an underdog but they picked up pace and not only tried to stay with the competition but beat them all to be the best.
    I don’t think LG, Sony and HTC are underdogs. They’ve been around right from the start of android.
    This article seems totally unfair to Samsung even though they’ve contributed as much as if not more than anyone else to bring android to the position it is at.

    • Dave Weinstein

      The simple answer to your question: market share. Samsung has over 50% of the Android market share, so that makes them the 900lb gorilla.

  • T.J.

    I picked Motorola because they’re building in the U.S. and actually optimizing the software with the hardware. Also, the added software features are actually useful unlike Samsung.
    Otherwise I’d go with Nexus. You can’t go wrong with pure Android at a good price.

  • Sanket Sonavane

    I root for OPPO its going to be huge because of

    1. the amazing build quality

    2.they listen to there customers

    3.frequent updates

    4. teaming with cyanogenMod

    All they need is a good local distribution and service center setup, rather than sending the device back to them but even currently they are managing pretty well. but if local distribution and service is in place there sales could boost up significantly.

    • Dave Weinstein

      They need 4G LTE support and multi-band radios.

      Not to harp on Google as an example but the radio supports 6 simultaneous LTE bands. penta-band HSPA+, and quad band GSM. Basically, they made a device that works everywhere in the world (except for the US, where they made a separate version). THAT’S what Oppo needs.

      Their new uber-phone, the N1, doesn’t have an LTE radio.

      So until they get their 4G act together, they’ll only be setting up infrastructure in places with 3G only, like mainland China and Thailand, etc.

  • Leonardo Rojas

    Sony n.n

    As long as it stops having stupid drawbacks: Low availability, dubious screen quality, too many mid and low end models, and SLOW release in markets!! Samsung always win in release times :(

  • Brendon Brown

    If Sony could stop the small mistakes and small turn offs and just advertise and become more recognized they wouldn’t be classified as an under dog

  • itzvarma

    Sony .. they are back and doing really well in asia and europe .. Z1 and ZU are amazing products .. waiting for Z1f to launch in India .. will get one first day .. i dont care about the reviews .. i know it will be great ..