Android Smartphone Buyers Guide

As we inch closer towards the end of the year, more and more spectacular Android smartphones are lining up on each carrier.  But what is it that sets one apart from the other? Maybe it's a QWERTY keyboard you're after, or looking to stay within a particular budget, or maybe you just want the best-damn Android that money can buy for your carrier.  Any way you look at it, shopping for the perfect device is not always that simple.  There are many key factors that come in play when you're making that final decision between Android's-- and this guide is designed to give you the know-how that will ease the process of choosing the perfect smartphone for you.

We'll be taking a look at specific Android's on each major US carrier, as well as Bell Canada that meet the requirements of best overall device, budget phones ($150 and under), best Android with a QWERTY keyboard, and finally our very own reader's choice selection.  Check past the break to dive into this edition of the Android Smartphone Buyer's Guide.

AT&T Android phones

AT&T Samsung Galaxy S II

SAMSUNG GALAXY S II
Best Android

Hands down, the Samsung Galaxy S II is AT&T's hottest device that is currently available.  This device comes with Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) and Touchwiz 4 right out of the box, along with a stunning 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus display.  The Samsung Galaxy S II has a nice slim and sleek design, and is extrememly responsive thanks to its HSPA+ network, dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM. Labeled the thinnest 4G Android smartphone on the market, the Samsung Galaxy S II is without a doubt the top-dog on AT&T.   

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                         Pantech Crossover
PANTECH CROSSOVER
Qwerty Keyboard

For the Android enthusiasts on AT&T who prefer a keyboard at hand, the Pantech Crossover is a good choice with its side-slider design, 3.1-inch touchscreen, and 600MHz single core processor.  Although it's not the most impressive Android smartphone on AT&T, it's still not a bad device if you prefer texting on that phyical keyboard.  If you're even looking to take a step down from the Crossover, the HTC Status (Facebook phone) would be your next best option-- but don't set your expectations too high for that device.  The Pantech Crossover is available for $349.99.

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LG Thrill 4G

LG THRILL 4G
Budget Android

If money's tight this month, then you'll want to look for the best bang for your buck.  In this case the LG Thrill 4G is your best bet on AT&T right now.  Very similar to the Optimus 3D, the LG Thrill 4G allows you to enjoy 3D media without the use of special glasses. There's some great hardware underneath the hood of this device such as a 1GHz dual-core processor and 512MB of RAM.  The LG Thrill 4G features a 4.3-inch display, a 5-megapixel stereoscopic camera, and utilizes the HSPA+ network on AT&T.  For $99.99 with the usual 2-year agreement, the Thrill 4G packs quite the 3D punch while still saving you some dinero.

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Motorola Atrix 4G

MOTOROLA ATRIX 4G
Reader's Choice

Chosen by you-- the Android Central community.  The Motorola Atrix 4G, noted as the "world's most powerful smartphone" at one time or another is still quite the powerhouse next to its competition.  There's no question why the community is a fan of this beast with its 1GHz dual-core processor, 16GB of onboard memory, slim candybar formfactor, HSPA+ capability and 5-megapixel camera with 720p HD video capture.  To make this device even more worthy of the Android Central Readers Choice title is the latest update to Android 2.3 (Gingerbread).  Currently the Atrix 4G is available for $449.99 without a contract.

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Verizon Android phones

Motorola Droid Bionic

MOTOROLA DROID BIONIC
Best Android

While they sure kept us all waiting for the launch of this device, the Motorola Droid Bionic is without a doubt a top contender on Verizon's 4G Android lineup.  Packing a 1GHz OMAP4430 dual-core processor, a whopping 1GB of RAM while running on Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread), this device was definitely worth the wait and is sure to be a crowd pleaser for those looking to have the best of the best on Verizon. You get what you pay for, and in this case you'll be forking out $589.99 without a contract, and $299 with.

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Motorola Droid 3

MOTOROLA DROID 3
Qwerty Keyboard

The Motorola Droid 3 is an awesome choice for a slider phone on Verizon.  As long as you don't mind giving up that LTE data speed and staying at 3G it's a pretty solid device.  It still sports a 1GHz dual-core processor, 16GB of internal memory, a nifty 8-megapixel camera with panoramic modes and even runs on Gingerbread with an updated version of BLUR. Full retail on the Motorola Droid 3 is $459.99, or $199.99 if you sign on the dot.

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Casio G'zOne Commando

CASIO G'ZONE COMMANDO
Budget Android

The Casio G'zOne Commando is your best bet if you're pinching pennies.  The Commando is a pretty unique Android in terms of design.  It's built like a tank, and by that we mean that it meets military standards for immersion, rain, shock, heck even solar radiation.  Looking on the inside you've got an 800MHz processor with 512MB of RAM covered up by a 3.6-inch WVGA Gorilla Glass display. The Casio G'zOne Commando goes for $149.99 with a two-year agreement making it a sweet choice for saving a buck or two.

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HTC Thunderbolt
HTC THUNDERBOLT
Reader's Choice

An all-time favorite here at Android Central, the HTC Thunderbolt proves itself to be top pick amongst the community. The Thunderbolt was Verizon's first 4G LTE Android smartphone, but that doesn't mean that it's old news.  With features such as a 1GHz single-core Snapdragon processor, 768MB of RAM and a 4.3-inch capacitive touchscreen the HTC Thunderbolt is an absolute wonder to use.  Full retail on this gem is $569.99, or $249.99 with contract.

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Sprint Android phones

HTC EVO 3D
HTC EVO 3D
Best Android & Reader's Choice

Not only is the HTC EVO 3D the top runner on Sprint right now, but it also holds the title for reader's choice.  It's the first 3D Android smartphone to hit Sprint, and it's doing a great job representing the hype that it created even prior to its launch.  Underneath the EVO 3D's 4.3-inch 3D qHD capacitive 960 x 540 px display you have a 1.2 GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor, 1GB of RAM, dual 5-megapixel rear cameras that are capabable of recording 2D video at 1080p as well as 3D recording at 720p.  Did we mention the EVO 3D utilizes Sprint's 4G network as well? Yeah, it's that good. The no-obligation price is currently $549.99 through Sprint,  but with a two-year contract the EVO 3D is all yours for $199.99.

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Samsung Epic 4GSAMSUNG EPIC 4G
Qwerty Keyboard

Best choice for a QWERTY keyboard Android on Sprint? The Samsung Epic 4G.  This device is a dream for any user that absolutely must-have a physical keyboard.  Not only is the comfort level exceptional for typing, the 4-inch Super AMOLED display is crisp and easy to slide.  Take advantage of 3G/4G speeds with hotspotting powered by a 1GHz Cortex A8 Hummingbird processor and 512MB of RAM.  The Samsung Epic 4G is available for $99.99 with a two-year agreement or $499.99 contract-free.

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HTC EVO 4G

HTC EVO 4G
Budget Android

Sprint's got some pretty good deals if you're looking to conserve your finances, but overall your best choice without a doubt is the HTC EVO 4G.  The EVO 4G has been around the Android scene for a little over a year, but still manages to hold its own against the current competition.  It has features such as a gorgeous 4.3-inch capacitive display, 1GHz Snapdragon processor, 512MB of RAM and a convenient fold-out kickstand to make viewing media a breeze.  Throw a little Gingerbread and 4G in the mix and you've got a killer deal for just $99.99 with a two-year contract.

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T-Mobile Android phones

HTC Sensation

HTC SENSATION
Best Android & Reader's Choice

The HTC Sensation is T-Mobile's latest and greatest Android smartphone which features a 4.3-inch capacitive qHD Super LCD display, Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) and the lastest version of Sense 3.0.  It's extremely slim and lightweight making it comfortable and easy to handle compared to heavier devices such as the Droid 2 or LG Revolution.  Other specs include a 1.2GHz Qualcomm dual-core processor, 768MB of RAM, and an 8-megapixel camera with dual LED flash. For $199.99 you can pick up the HTC Sensation with contract or buy it outright for $499.99.

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MyTouch 4G SlideMYTOUCH 4G SLIDE
Qwerty Keyboard

Taking the spot for best Android with a keyboard is the MyTouch 4G Slide.  Silimar to the original MyTouch 4G with the addition of a physical keyboard and some improved specs like a 3.7-inch touchscreen, Sense 3.0, a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 8-megapixel camera and Android 2.3 (Gingerbread).  If you plan to bag one of these you're looking around $499.99 for full retail, otherwise it's $199.99 contracted.

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LG G2X

LG G2X
Budget Android

The T-Mobile LG G2X is the perfect budget Android with its intense HD gaming and 4G speeds powered by Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) and T-Mobile's first NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual-core processor.  It also features 512MB of RAM underneath its 4-inch Gorilla Glass capacitive display.  The LG G2X goes for $149.99 with a two-year agreement.

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Bell Android smartphones
Samsung Galaxy S II
SAMSUNG GALAXY S II
Best Android

You didn't think we forgot about our friends over in Canada, did you?  The most popular and top rated Android available from Bell is the Samsung Galaxy S II.  There's not really any negatives to say about this device as a whole.  You've got nearly top of the line specs here: 4.3-inch WVGA Super-AMOLED display, dual-core 1GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, Android 2.3, and an 8-megapixel camera.  No terms, you're looking at $599.95 for this beast.  However a 3-year agreement will get you the Galaxy S II for just $149.95.

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Android Central
MOTOROLA XT860 4G
Qwerty Keyboard

In Canada, they don't have 'Droid' devices so instead devices tend to get rebranded. The MOTOROLA XT860 4G or as it is more commonly known the Droid 3 wins out as best QWERTY keyboard device available. Bell carries the MOTOROLA XT860 4G with a 1GHz dual-core processor, 16GB of internal memory, an 8-megapixel camera with panoramic modes and even runs on Gingerbread with an updated version of BLUR. You'll also get HSPA+ compatibility when using the Bell network. Pricing - $99 on a new three-year contract, if you're looking for no contract that will be $549.

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Motorola Atrix 4G
MOTOROLA ATRIX 4G
Budget Android

While it may come as a surprise to see the Motorola Atrix 4G on the budget device list, truth is -- it's available for $49 on Bell with a three-year contract and when it comes to specs it is no slouch. Some of the specs include Nvidia's Tegra 2 dual core processor, 1 GB RAM, 16 GB of onboard storage and fingerprint recognition. Gingerbread is available out of the box and HSPA+ is there as well.

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Rogers


HTC EVO 3D
HTC EVO 3D
Honorable Mention

Sharing the same specs as Sprint, only bearing GSM bands -- Rogers HTC EVO 3D's gets and honourable mention here. You can pick up a Rogers HTC EVO 3D for only $99 on a three-year contract with the outright cost setting you back $549. The EVO 3D's 4.3-inch 3D qHD capacitive 960 x 540 px display you have a 1.2 GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor, 1GB of RAM, dual 5-megapixel rear cameras that are capbable of recording 2D video at 1080p as well as 3D recording at 720p makes it a great choice.

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The UK and Europe

Samsung Galaxy S IISAMSUNG GALAXY S II

Best Android & Readers Choice

Of all the phones we’ve tested recently, nothing has come close to Samsung’s Galaxy S II in terms of sheer speed and display quality. The 1.2GHz dual-core Exynos chip flies along, while the 4.3-inch SuperAMOLED+ screen is the brightest, most vibrant we’ve ever seen on a smartphone. Samsung’s made some serious improvements on the software side of things too -- the new TouchWiz 4.0 UI is easy to use, and runs without a hitch on the Galaxy S II’s top-notch hardware. Add in an 8-megapixel camera with 1080p recording capabilities, and a super-thin, super-light chassis, and it becomes clear why our readers selected this phone as their favorite of 2011.

SIM-free prices for the Galaxy S II start at around £400. Most networks offer it for free on contracts of £30-35 or more per month.

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HTC Sensation
HTC SENSATION
Honorable Mention

The HTC Sensation is a shining example of just how far Android smartphones have come in the past year, and it wouldn’t be fair to leave it off our list. Sure, it doesn’t quite match up to the Galaxy S II’s raw speed, but equally it’s no slouch. Inside the Sensation’s gorgeous aluminum unibody chassis there’s an ample 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon chip, backed up by 768MB of RAM. And the phone’s software is just as sleek as its hardware. HTC Sense 3.0 builds on Android 2.3 Gingerbread to create the most fully-featured Android user experience around. It also boasts a sharp qHD (960x540) resolution display that looks great whether displaying photos, or reading small text in the web browser.

The Sensation will set you back somewhere in the region of £360-400 without a contract. If you want a subsidized Sensation, you’re looking at a contract of around £30 per month from most major networks.

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Xperia Arc
SONY ERICSSON XPERIA ARC
Android All-Arounder

The Xperia Arc won us over with its sleek design, streamlined UI and best-in-class 8-megapixel Exmor-R camera. Like the Galaxy S II, it’s extremely thin and light, with a well-designed UI that’s fast and effortless to use. You also get a large 4.2-inch screen powered by Sony’s Mobile Bravia Engine -- the same tech that’s found in high-end Sony TVs. And the Arc’s physical design shouldn’t be overlooked, either -- its arced back and slim profile give it a striking appearance.

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Wildfire S
HTC WILDFIRE S
Budget Android

HTC’s current budget offering, the Wildfire S, is a great way to get in on the Android smartphone action without breaking the bank. For your £175 (SIM-free), you get a software experience comparable to more expensive phones like the Desire S, thanks to HTC Sense 2.1. The 600MHz CPU may stop you from playing some high-end games, but it’s more than speedy enough for web browsing, social networking and casual games like Angry Birds. Our main reason for picking the Wildfire S over other, similarly speced phones, however, is its build quality. HTC should be given credit for delivering a budget device that’s built like a premium smartphone.

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Xperia Pro
SONY ERICSSON XPERIA PRO
Qwerty Keyboard

Launching imminently for around £350, Sony Ericsson’s Xperia Pro looks set to fill the space left by the now discontinued HTC Desire Z. The Xperia Pro offers many of the headline features of the Xperia Arc, with the added bonus of a four-row keyboard of the physical, clicky variety. Just like the Arc, you get a 1GHz Snapdragon CPU, 512MB of RAM, 8MP Exmor-R camera and a bright 854x480 Mobile Bravia Engine-powered display. Sony Ericsson’s Xperia UI takes care of your social networking needs too, with Facebook closely integrated into the phone’s contacts, messaging, dialer and music apps.

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Wrap-up

Hopefully you've got a better idea of which Android smartphone is best for you with this edition of Android Smartphone Buyer's Guide.  Remember that despite the choices mentioned here, there's always a better device already in the works, and some that have already been released. Look for them in our next edition.  It comes down to whether you want to wait it out, or embrace one of the many great Android smartphone's available from your carrier.  Good luck, and happy shopping!