Android Central

Welcome to the best UK and European Android Phones as of Feb. 2, 2012. Or you can call them our favorite Android phones. Or the top Android phones. Really, call them whatever you want. Here's what you're getting: Our unabashed, unapologetic and unequivocal list of what we consider to be the best Android smartphones available on the five major UK networks today. For those of you outside the UK, we've also thrown in a rundown of our top five unlocked, international GSM phones.

There are a lot of great Android phones available to tempt European buyers, and unlike the U.S., many phones are available on multiple carriers, giving Euros a bit more freedom when it comes to their choice of device. In any case, join us after  the jump for the complete rundown, or check out the best U.S. and Canadian devices at the link below.

First, let's take a look at what's on offer across the UK's largest mobile networks --

Best phone on O2, Vodafone and Three - Samsung Galaxy Nexus

Galaxy Nexus

We’ll make things relatively easy for anyone on these three networks -- O2, Vodafone and Three offer the Samsung Galaxy Nexus subsidized on-contract. In our opinion it’s the best Android phone you can buy, on balance. You’ve got Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich pre-loaded, and a gorgeous HD SuperAMOLED display to boot. And the fact that it’s a Nexus device means that you’ll always be first with software updates.

Specs | Forums | Read our full review

Honorable Mention for O2 - Samsung Galaxy Note

Samsung Galaxy Note

The Galaxy Note is proving to be a surprising hit for Samsung. It’s already shipped well over a million of them worldwide, and North American networks are clamoring to pick up the device. Sure, a 5.3-inch smartphone isn’t for everyone, but the Note brings a few unique tricks to the table, including “S Pen” stylus input, and a 1280x800 HD SuperAMOLED screen. With an update to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich due by the end of March, the Note is only going to get better as time goes on.

Specs | Forums | Read our full review

Honorable Mention for Three - Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S

Xperia Arc S

Sony Ericsson’s handsets boast the best cameras of any Android phone, and the past year as seen SE deliver great software support with regular updates, and even a sneak peek at the eventual ICS update. The Arc S has a 8.1MP EXMOR R camera, which delivers great low-light performance, as well as 720p video and 3D panoramic photos. It’s also the fastest of Sony Ericsson’s current crop of phones (though that’ll be changing soon with the launch of the Xperia S), and its unique design makes one of the most attractive Android devices around.

Specs | Forums | Read our full review

Honorable Mention for Vodafone - Samsung Galaxy S II

Galaxy S II

If you’d prefer a slightly smaller device than the Nexus with a better camera, you could do a lot worse than the Samsung Galaxy S II on Vodafone. In terms of raw horsepower and responsiveness, few phones have rivaled the Galaxy S II. TouchWiz 4.0 sees Sammy’s UI layer mature, and deliver useful functionality like video and photo editing. Like all of our recommended smartphones, it’s due an Ice Cream Sandwich update too, which should give the device a new lease of life in the months ahead.

Specs | Forums | Read our full review

Best phone on Orange and T-Mobile UK - HTC Sensation XE

Sensation XE

The Sensation XE is the fastest and most feature-packed device that HTC currently has on the market. You’ve got a speedy a 1.5GHz dual-core CPU, an 8MP camera and Beats Audio functionality built-in. You’ll also find version 3.0 of HTC’s Sense UI, soon to be updated to version 3.5 when the Ice Cream Sandwich update lands.

Specs | Forums | Read our full review

Worth a look: As part of “Everything Everywhere,” Orange and T-Mobile share a very similar Android device line-up. If the Sensation XE doesn’t float your boat, we recommend taking a look at the Galaxy S II or Xperia Ray.


Top Five Unlocked International Android Phones

If you're off contract in Europe, you're free to pick up a GSM phone SIM-free. Slap a SIM of your choice in there, and you're good to go. Here's our rundown of the top five unlocked devices in Europe --

5. HTC Sensation XL

At 4.7 inches, the Senastion XL pushes the boundaries of in terms of pocketability, but if you can get past its size, there's a lot to like -- a vibrant screen, the latest version of Sense and excellent battery life.

4. HTC Sensation XE

The Sensation XL's big brother (sort of), the XE packs more hardware muscle, albeit in a smaller package, for a higher price tag.

3. Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S

Sony Ericsson's fastest and prettiest Android smartphone, with an well-designed UI and one of the best cameras available on any Android device.

2. Samsung Galaxy S II

Samsung's 2011 flagship device is still an outstanding product, with a vivid SuperAMOLED Plus screen, a beastly Exynos CPU and some useful software functionality.

1. Samsung Galaxy Nexus

The number one spot really wasn't going to go to any device other than the current flagship Google Experience device. With the Galaxy Nexus, Samsung and Google succeed in bringing to market a truly outstanding device, and the best Android smartphone money can buy.

 

Reader comments

The best UK/European Android Phones - As of Feb. 2, 2012

19 Comments

I did not buy a Nexus because I have the superior Samsung Galaxy S II. The recent need to promote the Nexus (read Ice Cream Sandwich) and anything new over the Galaxy S II is petty at best and ultimately futile. I understand constantly discussing an 'old' phone does not generate much interest and can be boring particularly when the trend is to focus on the latest and greatest but let's face facts. Yes it is an old phone and no it does not run ICS but Samsung delivered a winner that no-one has managed to rival. Accept it.

Samsung themselves have rivalled it. While it undoubtedly is an amazing phone, once you have used ICS and a 720p screen EVERYTHING feels like a let down. The S2 wilk get ICS, but it'll never get the screen from the Nexus. It's the best all round device out there. That's why we keep choosing it.

Except for the fact that the GSII performs better than the GNex in every category. With an ICS upgrade it will be a better device hands down and the only thing the GNex will have on it will be its screen.

This.

The Galaxy S2 is a nice phone, don't get me wrong. Spec-wise it may be very similar than the Galaxy Nexus, but the screen is everything on a touch screen phone. It's what you use to interact with EVERY SINGLE feature.

Yes, the Galaxy S2 will get ICS, but the screen will always be not quite as good as on the Galaxy Nexus.

I will take my poor screen but superior everything else. The Nexus has a place for certain people and for those who simply must has the latest bug fix before everyone else. However for the vast majority of consumers (and I include people here) the Nexus is a weak choice. Not only does it not stack up to the Galaxy S II now, screen aside, it will soon be left in the dust by the next wave of smartphones that will have the two advantages of the Nexus in ICS and superior screens but also far superior hardware. The Nexus, for a purported Google flagship phone, does little to further the market and struggles against current devices let alone their imminent replacements.

overwhelmingly what "people" want most out of their phones and complain about most is software support and updates. You say the SGS2 has better specs and that might arguably be true, but in a year from now the SGS2 will be eclipsed just like the Galaxy Nexus; except that the GN will still be doing great with the latest software and best app compatibility. Meanwhile SGS2 owners will be complaining in the comments on Android Central about not getting their updates quickly from Samsung.

I don't mind healthy debate about what people (subjectively) think is the best phone but to flat out say the GN is "a weak choice" is equally as one sided as all the people who love it and say it's hands down better than every other device. It's about options and preferences and Android gives everyone both.

actually the only people who clamor for updates are the people who frequent sites like this. Everyone else chooses a phone to use for two years (or until the break it) and only know there is an update to the phone when it pops up on their screen (let alone what it does), and even half of them dont know what it is so they dismiss it, and later when they realize it installed when they weren't paying attention complain that the phone is "different" now.

had to read out loud this comment by VZWRocks to my bf... talking about the majority of buyers, I have to say that he is right. The number of users who actually care for constant upgrades and flashing custom ROMs might be growing but is still small.

While nexus is offering 316ppi screen (not even the highest out there),
Most of them conveniently forget the fact that sii use super amoled plus, which is non existent on nexus.
They're just trying to comfort themselves with the fact that Sii is still a superior gadget.
Let's see how samsung will apply Ics on it next month.

Apart from de screen de Galaxy was a let down. Look how long de Galaxy s2 remained king and is still competing with de current market, that's a flagship. I honestly think Samsung held back with de Galaxy Nexus because of S3.De Nexus is just not the one to beat if it has to compete with an older phone it shud be flying high and fast, untouchable like de way de S2 was and still is. De only thing that gonna shadow s2s PS de current processors

I decided to buy a phone off contract, and eventually went for the HTC Sensation XE.
This was purely a personal decision based on day to day usability - the Galaxy Nexus is gorgeous, but I don't like a phone you consistently have to use 2 hands to use due to the screen size.
Likewise, the Galaxy SII just felt too insubstantial in my large hands to be a "real" phone!

As I said, personal preference, but no regrets at all. All I am hoping now is HTC don't ruin Ice Cream Sandwich for the Sensation with implementing Sense on it the way they have always done, just because they have always done it that way!

My new Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro is a clearly better alternative, if you not have very bad eyes or huge fingers - because of it's excellent slide out keyboard, amazing 3.7 inch screen and the same system as Arc...

I did compare the colors with help of advanced test patterns and pictures with my friends Samsung Note and mine was slightly better, with deeper and more accurate reds!

It does also have a 3G talk time of 7:21 hours in test, where most "offer" just around 3 to 4 hours...

Then has it in addition HDMI out and it never hangs, at least not since I got mine 6 october 2011

I have a brand new nikon L120 from digitalcameraleague.com (I bought it there on the cheapest yet good quality). And I love it. I love android phones too but its not really comforting as a real camera.

A bit disappointed, this article is UK based and really does not have anything to do with the Europe. I live in the Netherlands and think the Galaxy Note is the best Android phone in Europe. It is the first phone I have been happy with in about 3 years.

So never confuse UK and Continental Europe. They are very very different in everything. We even have better coverage here in the Netherlands than in the UK and cheaper rates. And faster Internet. I have 21mbps HSDPA+ connection on my phone. Love it.

I am a very happy N7000 owner, too and like you, love its amazing performance and speed. Although, I have to add that while the Note might be the perfect choice for us, other people would want a smaller phone that they can put into every pocket easily. I think the biggest advantage of Android devices is that you have such a broad range of choices, so many devices with different equipment and coming in so many price categories, too.