What Will Be the Best Android Phone of 2012?

February 26, 2012
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[Updated: February 21st, Updated: February 27 Updated: March 20 Updated: May 20]

The year 2011 was all about “dual core” becoming the standard for high-end smartphones. And we have all witnessed what yesteryear’s superphones like the Samsung Galaxy S II, DROID RAZR MAXX, and others are capable of. The following phones are much more powerful than anything released last year, and for this upcoming generation of devices, even more.

So, what next? This year, chip-makers have come forth with quad core processors supporting mobile multitasking comparable to the performance of a desktop computer of a few years ago, powered by Tegra 3 SoC’s and TI’s OMAP equivalent. More cores equal more power and a faster smartphone; certainly they are likely to offer increased power savings and a performance increase in the range of 300-500%. And, they actually have power saving features embedded in them too.

 

The race for Android smartphone dominance features an incredible lineup with a fair mix of “veterans” as well as “newcomers,” including HTC, Motorola, Sony, Samsung, LG, Huawei, ZTE and Meizu. Let’s take a look at some of the devices that are already available, or will be soon.

HTC

First out of the gate is HTC, which launched the first quad-core smartphone in the market. Officially named the HTC One X, it runs on NVIDIA’s quad-core Tegra 3 processor with its 4+1 set up involving a companion core for menial tasks, and is clocked at 1.5Ghz. With 1GB of RAM at your disposal, along with 32GB of built-in memory, this mammoth device offers a 4.7″ screen with 720p HD resolution.

HTC One X Specs

  • 8MP camera unit with 28mm, f/2.2 lens with HTC Imagechip and ImageSense
  • 4.7″ screen with 1280×720 HD LCD Display
  • NVIDIA’s Tegra 3 quad core clocked @ 1.5 Ghz
  • 32GB of built-in memory
  • 1GB of RAM
  • Android 4.0 ICS with HTC Sense 4.0
  • Bluetooth 4.0

After a dismal 2011 and Q1 of 2012, HTC looked towards its One series to turn the company’s fortunes around. And it seems to be working so far. Not to say that the much-heralded flagship device has been without its issues, such as:

  • Processor overheating, glitchy screens, and malfunctioning camera app (attempted fix via an OTA software update)
  • The recently noticed issue of poor multi-tasking app management
  • Poor battery life, a problem which has become a staple HTC issue over the past year (the same OTA update seemed to reduce this problem as well)
  • The currently on-going “controversy” of an Apple lawsuit victory which has delayed the launch of the HTC One X (with AT&T) and the HTC EVO 4G (with Sprint)

I’ve been using the the HTC One X for about 2 weeks now, and I personally haven’t faced any of the issues above. Granted, I received the OTA update as soon as I started up the device so that might have been a contributing factor. The high-resolution S-LCD screen along with Android 4.0 with the thinned-down Sense 4.0 UI provides an amazing user experience and you can easily feel how much of a difference the quad-core processor makes. Of course, battery life still isn’t as good as one would hope for, but since I’ve been using HTC devices for a while, I have all the “workarounds” in place (chargers for home, office, and car). Would I rather have a better, bigger battery? Definitely. Is the current battery a decision-changer? Absolutely not.

galaxy s3 vs htc one x

With the Samsung Galaxy S3 shipping within the next two weeks globally, and with other smartphone manufacturers releasing their devices only this summer or even later in fall, HTC has taken full advantage of its head start. How it fares against the competition is yet to be seen, but I believe that the HTC One X will definitely be in the contending for the crown of best Android smartphone of 2012.

SAMSUNG

Completely contrary to HTC, Samsung enjoyed an amazing 2011 on its way to becoming the No. 1 Android device manufacturer in the world. They are testing possible processors like the Exynos 5250, which isn’t quad-core, but rather a dual-core ARM Cortex-A15 processor. But as we now know, Samsung decided to go ahead with its ARM Cortex-A9 based quad-core Exynos 4412 processor, clocked at 1.4Ghz.

I’ll be honest, I’m still reeling from the rumor whirlwind that preceded the official announcement of the Korean company’s latest flagship device, the Galaxy S3. Even though we now have official specifications, if someone suddenly asks me about it, I still sift through the rumors and speculations that are floating around in my mind, before I remember the “truth.” Below are the official specifications of the much-hyped device.

Samsung Galaxy S3 Specs

  • 1.4 Ghz quad-core Exynos 4412 processor
  • 4.8 inch 1280×720 Super AMOLED display
  • 8MP rear camera, 1.9MP rear camera
  • 1GB RAM
  • 16/32/64 GB internal storage, microSD support

With Samsung releasing the very successful Galaxy S2, Galaxy Nexus, and Galaxy Note last year, the expectation for “the Next Galaxy” were through the roof! The endless speculation and rumors did not help the matter either. So even though the specifications of the Galaxy S3 are no laughing matter, and met the expectations of the more rational minds, there seems to be an air of disappointment following the launch. “Only” 1GB RAM? What happened to the 12MP camera we all wanted? Why is Samsung still using Pentile technology? These were some of the questions that was in everybody’s thoughts.

Of course, there are a lot of qualities such as the larger and removable battery, multiple storage options, and microSD support that for many users would be a big selling point for this device against the HTC One X. As such, the Samsung Galaxy S3 is still poised to be one of the most, if not the most successful Android smartphone of 2012.  

You can find more about the Samsung Galaxy S3 here

MOTOROLA

Motorola is another manufacturer, like HTC, that has lost its dominance in the Android smartphone arena. While HTC and Samsung both have their flagship devices available or soon-to-be-available, we only have rumors about future Motorola devices. After the DROID RAZR and the DROID RAZR MAXX, rumors of a DROID RAZR HD have surfaced along with more speculation about the absolutely unstoppable and drool-worthy 3300mAh Quad core powered Motorola Atrix 3.

Motorola Atrix 3 specs

  • 4.3 inch HD display
  • 1.5 Ghz quad-core Tegra 3 processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 3300 mAH battery

Motorola DROID RAZR HD specs

  • 4.6 inch HD display
  • 1.8 Ghz dual-core ARM-Cortex A9 processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 3300 mAH
  • Android 4.0

Of course, any information we have on the above mentioned devices are just rumors at this point. With Motorola smartphones usually featured on Verizon’s 4G LTE lineup, it is reasonable to assume that the larger battery will be used. The HD display has become a standard feature on all high-end devices and therefore things should not be any different on Motorola’s flagship device.

The Google-owned company may be lying in wait to assess the competition before releasing their flagship device. It could also be letting the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S3 fight play out before jumping into the ring. Either way, for now it looks like Motorola is poised to make its case for Android supremacy in the second half of the year, and will likely take on the lesser known LG, Sony, Huawei, and ZTE devices.

Complete speculation at this point, but with rumors of Android 5.0 Jellybean floating around, what do you think are the chances of Motorola getting first dibs on the OS?

SONY

From what we’ve seen, it appears that Sony is taking the smartphone market very seriously, and is positioning themselves in 2012 to become a lot more competitive. Granted, Sony execs have mostly confirmed that their devices will not feature a quad-core processor till 2013. But with the impressive performance of the dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, this is not necessarily a bad thing.

Sony released the Xperia S this year, with both packing a dual core 1.5 Ghz Snapdragon chip, a 4.55″ 1280×720 HD display, 1 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, and a 1750 mAh battery. Also, it packs a 12 MP camera with full HD recording and HDMI port. The biggest drawback is the fact that the device ships with Android 2.3 out of the box. Sony confirmed that an upgrade to Android 4.0 will be available in June, but somehow this “disadvantage” is enough for me to leave the Xperia S out of the running for Android “phone of the year.”

It does look like Sony might by releasing a legitimate contender for the title after all, if some rumors are to be believed. We’ve all heard about the impressive Xperia GX with its for-Japan-only tag, but it Sony might be considering an international version of the device as well, codenamed Hayabusa.

Sony LT29i Hayabusa specs

  • 4.6 inch HD screen
  • 1.5 Ghz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor
  • 13 MP rear camera
  • 2,200 mAH

If Sony is considering an international release of the Xperia GX, which has similar specs, it is safe to assume that the device will ship with Android 4.0 out of the box. With the smartphone market shaping up the way it is, Sony will really need to step up its game to avoid losing big.

MEIZU

Meizu MX with Quad Core Launching in May 2012

Meizu MX Specs

  • Exynos Quad Core @ 1.5 Ghz
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 16 GB ROM
  • 8MP Camera
  • 1600 mAh
  • 4 inch LED backlit display

Recently, Meizu CEO J Wong has confirmed that after first gen Meizu MX launched recently, its quad core version will be hitting the market soon installed with the Android Ice Cream Sandwich while it arrives in May 2012. He also confirmed in the official company forum that the second version of the Meizu MX will come with the Exynos processor. There is not so detailed information about the features it will showcase, but it will perhaps have a processor clocked at 1.5 GHz, 1/2 GB RAM, 16 Gb inbuilt memory, 8 MP or higher camera, full HD recording, HDMI port, 4+” LED display and a 1600 mAh battery.

Meizu have gained reputation in China, and their quality and powerful devices are starting to be acknowledged by the West. This means that it might not be long until they start selling them in Europe and the US, as well struggling against the iPhone.

LG

LG 4X HD Specs: 

  • NVIDIA Tegra 3 Quad-core CPU
  • A whopping 4.7 inches HD Screen (1280×720)
  • 8MP Rear Camera and 1.3MP Front
  • 16GB on a microSD card.
  • Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich out of the box
  • 21Mbps HSPA or LTE depending on region and carrier
  • 2000mAh battery
  • NFC

LG has received a lot of flack for slow updates, and for software that doesn’t perform at its best, all the time. That being said, they are still considered one of the top five, in terms of market share, at least. So it should come as no surprise that LG does not want to stand idly by.

While the Optimus 4X HD is impressive in its own right, it doesn’t hold a candle to the LG Optimus LTE2. Here’s why.

LG Optimus LTE2 specs

  • 1.5 Ghz NVIDIA quad-core Tegra 3 processor/dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 4.7″ True HD display (rumored)
  • 2,150 mAH

The information on the LTE2 is somewhat thin, considering its expected release later this month. We do know for sure though, that this will be the first smartphone in the world to feature 2GB RAM. Processor and display specifications are not yet available, but will should be impressive enough to provide good competition to HTC and Samsung.

Just when you thought LG was done, another leak pops up. And wow, is this one amazing! You be the judge.

LG LS970 Eclipse specs

  • 4.67″ WXGA display
  • 1.5 Ghz quad-core Krait processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 13MP rear camera
  • 2,100 mAH battery

We are aware of the incompatibility issues quad-core processors have with LTE radios, but if the these rumored specs are true, it looks like Qualcomm has found a solution. The expected release of this device is Q4 of 2012, so unless this release gets delayed, the LG Eclipse will have an undisputed claim to the throne.

HUAWEI

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Huawei is the one to watch in 2012. They’ve had quite a bit of success domestically in China, and elsewhere in Europe, and they’re hungry for more. Out of the hundreds of pieces of technology I had the privilege of experiencing, the Huawei Ascend P1 and P1S were the ones that really stood out. Remarkably thin, and built of an extremely strong composite plastic, they both featured an eye popping qHD AMOLED display, and made me want to put my Galaxy S2 back in my pocket.

Dubbed the Huawei Ascend D Quad XL, the company claims that this device is “the world’s fastest smartphone,” and all in a super tight, svelte package. What’s not to love? Perhaps the battery life. Time will tell, as with all good things, but from judging the reception the DROID RAZR MAXX has enjoyed with its industry leading 3300mAh battery, major manufacturers better wake up and notice that consumers want long battery life, and, in most cases, are willing to forgo thinness in the pursuit of more road-warrior attuned qualities.

Huawei Ascend D Quad Specs

  • 4.5″ qHD display
  • NFC
  • 16GB of onboard memory
  • 8MP camera
  • Quad-core 1.5Ghz processor
  • Android 4.0x+ Ice Cream Sandwich
  • 2200 mAh battery

Anyway, no matter the number of devices, what we are in the midst of is truly a mobile computing revolution. At the end of the day, we, the consumers, will all benefit. After all, we are going to experience a whole new world of smarter, faster and buttery smooth mobile devices.

ZTE

Huawei and ZTE are both well known in their own Chinese markets, but have failed to make an impression on the world stage. Until now.

While Huawei will be releasing the flashier Ascend D Quad, ZTE is right behind, providing a quad-core option for the budget-conscious. Let’s take a look at the specs of the ZTE Era.

ZTE Era specs

  • 4.3 inch qHD display
  • 960×540 resolution
  • 1.3 Ghz NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor
  • 1GB RAM
  • 8GB internal storage, microSD support
  • 8MP rear camera
  • Android 4.0

The only disappointing features are the slightly lower display resolution and the under-clocked(?) processor. But it’s still quad-core, and these “compromises” are what is going to lead the Era boasting a very pocket-friendly price tag. Huawei and ZTE plan to ship a combined 100 million devices this year, and both will provide stiff competition to the more established HTC, Samsung, and Motorola.

The fight for Android smartphone supremacy is shaping up quite well, with the action set to heat up over the second half of the year with some truly amazing devices in the pipeline. It almost makes you wonder if HTC and Samsung rushed their flagship releases.

What are your thoughts? Which device do you think will wear the crown at the end of the year? Are excited for the first 2GB RAM smartphones? Did HTC and Samsung show their hand too soon? Let us know in the comments section below.

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