Best Phones - U.S. edition

Welcome to the best Android Phones as of Feb. 1, 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 four major U.S. carriers today.

You can't have this sort of list without controversy. We get that. And discussion is good. And so we're just going to anwer the question as simply as we can here: What do we think is the best phone on any given U.S. carrier as of right now? They're all in this post. No metrics, no scores. Just our pics and a tad of explanation, with the goal of helping you find the best phone on a particular carrier at any given time.

The best phone on T-Mobile - Samsung Galaxy S II

T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S II

It's really a toss-up between the Samsung Galaxy S II and the HTC Amaze 4G. Both are excellent phones, with large screens and fast data and great cameras. But we're giving the edge to the Galaxy S II because its camera software is a bit more mature and easy to use.

Specs | Forums | Read our full review

Worth a look: HTC Amaze 4G.

The best phone on Verizon - Samsung Galaxy Nexus

Verizon Galaxy Nexus

Verizon has more Android phones than anyone. (Or at least it sure feels that way.) And while you've got excellent phones in the likes of the Motorola Droid RAZR MAXX and HTC Rezound, none offers as much flexibility and is ensured to have more timely updates than the Verizon Samsung Galaxy Nexus. The Droid RAZR MAXX is close -- but the 720p display on the Galaxy Nexus trumps it. The HTC Rezound matches the display resolution, however, so it's a good alternative.

Specs | Forums | Read our full review

Worth a look: Droid RAZR MAXX, HTC Rezound.

The best phone on AT&T - HTC Vivid

HTC Vivid

The HTC Vivid offers up a solid design and gives you that well-built feeling without sacrificing any speed. Its snappy dual-core processor and large display are a joy to use, and it's a great multi-media powerhouse. Add in AT&T's blossoming LTE network and you have what it takes to make a winner.

Specs | Forums | Read our full review

Worth a look: Samsung Galaxy S II. Coming soon: Samsung Galaxy Note (2/19/12)

The best phone on Sprint - Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch

Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch

A great phone with a ridiculously long name. The SGSIIE4GT takes everything we've come to know and love from Samsung's 2011 flagship phone and wraps it in a 4.5-inch form factor. Plus it's got Sprint's 4G Wimax data.

Specs | Forums | Read our full review

Worth a look: HTC Design 4G. Coming soon: Samsung Galaxy Nexus (date unknown)

 

Reader comments

The best U.S. Android Phones - As of Feb. 1, 2012

177 Comments

I won't argue Skyrocket v. Vivid. They are both good. However, how did SGS2 get the honorable mention over the Skyrocket?

how didn't i know you guys would pick the gnexus as the "best" phone on verizon? i disagree as i think both the rezound and the razr are just as good. "best" is very subjective as everyone will think differently.

When it comes to Android then most of us will for sure take the dev community as one of the best selling points of a phone.

(We) Enthusiasts do not equal vast majority. 90% of those looking to buy a phone do not care about bootloaders, rooting, or dev communities. It's about functionality out of the box.

Guess it depends on who this blog post is written for. If you're reading Android Central then there's a good chance you might be interested in hacking your phone and unlocking its full potential. So, hackability definitely needs to be taken into consideration when shopping for a new device. Case in point...without the dev community my tweaked, CM7.2 NookColor would still be a boring, no frills e-reader that would probably never come out of the drawer.

in your opinion right? id call the rezound one of the best phones out there. id also call the droid razr maxx a beast with the battery life so NO the gnexus is NOT the end all phone.

Funny you should say that, 'don't hold a candle'? Sure they do. You do realize that both the Nexus and RAZR are both OMAP4 @ 1.2Ghz with an SGX540 GPU and 1GB RAM? So essentially there nearly identical on performance, in fact since the RAZR only has to pump out qHD resolution you'd see higher performance technically. The only big (hardware) advantage the Nexus has is the HD screen, and maybe NFC. That's it. Otherwise the RAZR (and particularly MAXX) certainly has better radios, a gigantic battery, dedicated HDMI and removable storage as a plus. I own both phones (not Maxx version) Since this is a hardware thing, I'll skip the bootloader elephant. Point is, to say don't hold a candle is false.

If your going to talk about "bests" then you need to also say that the Galaxy Nexus has ICS, Vanilla Android, an unlocked bootloader, better screen (by a mile), better build (that is subjective but you said what you feel is the best so so did I), NFC, curved glass, no blur (the razr is nice but this is the single most reason I wouldnt get it as it is made by Motorola, runs blur, and is locked down), much faster updates, much better dev community (you can say that doesnt matter, but for that is the single best thing about Android and if Android was to become locked down I wouldnt buy a single one), and will be supported much longer than any Moto, Samsung, or HTC device.

The point is this is subjective, you make it sound like the Razr is better but leave out the best things about a Nexus device. For me I have to have a developer phone and many feel the same way I do and a phone with as many negatives as the Razr just wontcut it on an open OS. If we all wanted our phones locked down then we would more than likely jump on iOS.

If you're going to talk bests than the fact the Nexus runs ICS doesn't really mean anything. The Razr with GB and Moto's skin still performs better, so then whats the benefit of ICS?

And the value of a developer community depends on the user, however regardless of developer tinkering, the Razr will continue to have to better build quality(not even debatable), better call quality and stronger speakers, out of the box has better reception and performance.

The hack ability of android is perk of the OS, not the phones themselves. I feel like If you're judging a device on its merits then do it on an out of the bx basis. Right now you sound like one of those guys who talks about how he could hypothetically make his 10 year old Civic perform better than this or that, and writing off the fact that what he's got right now just doesn't match up.

I call BS go try them all out don't get me wrong, the razr is a great phone and has many strong/cool points but does not out perform vanilla ICS

Do you own all three phones? Unless you do you have no frame of reference to call BS. For the record I do own all three phones and yes the Rezound and Razr out perform the Nexus.

But by locking down their bootloader, Moto takes away our right to make use of that "perk of the OS." I had a Bionic for a couple months - the biggest reason I exchanged it for the GNex is the unlocked bootloader. To say that's not a feature of the phone is just wrong.

Please, I've tried both the Rezound and Razr in stores and they both felt a bit laggy. The browsers definitely were not as smooth as the browser on my Sensation running a beta ICS rom.

So yes, I think the Nexus with ICS wins since we're not counting the dev community as a pro.

The Razr also has SD expansion.

Come to think of it, so does almost every other Android phone since the beginning of time.

I like the HTC Rezound much better than the Razr or GN. It has the same HD screen, a similar processor, unlockable bootloader that the GN has + has global capabilities and a Micro SD card slot and Beats Audio w/ headphones you could use or sell for like $100.

Also, you can always add an AOSP ROM to the Rezound, but you can rarely (if ever) add HTC Sense to the GN.

And don't even complain about the thickness because it is not as bad as it seems, and also battery life isn't as bad either.

I can only see 2 things; more dev support and quicker updates.

RAZR - OMAP 4430
Nexus - OMAP 4460

4430 is factory clocked at 1 Ghz, Moto likely overclocked it. Overclocking puts higher strain on the chip and causes it to run hotter as a result, while also resulting in higher battery usage

4460 is factory clocked at 1.5 Ghz, Samsung likely underclocked it. Underclocking decreases battery drain.

The 4460 has a dedicated hardware HD decoder, while the 4430 does not. Video performance should be much higher as a result.

I also believe the bus speed on the 4460 is higher.

If we are comparing the two CPUs, best to get a full comparison, rather than saying, "They are both OMAP4 so they are both the same"

BTW.. the 4430 really does exist in 1.2ghz flavor; it aint no overclocking at all. Check the manufacturers lists.

Yes but as far as clock speed the 4460 is literally just an overclocked 4430, there's nothing about the 4460 that would make it run better at 1.5ghz than the 4430 would. Same with the GPUs. And that's probably why the Razr still has better battery life than the Nexus, despite having a smaller stock battery.

TI OMAP 4460's SGX540 chip is clocked @384mhz

------- 4430 is only 300mhz.

Since everything in ICS is hardware-accelerated, the GNexus sure has at least a small advantage.

Really cause the inspire sucked balls!! HTC has to use white in the background alot cause their screens suck outside and they constantly put smaller batteries in there top devices than other manufactures. My girl had the inspire which had half the call quality of my infuse and a tiny 1300 battery, oh and they made the dam thing so you couldn't change the back for an extended battery. Sorry but HTC has to step its game up.

HTC's screens have bugged me since I got the Tbolt - they're so washed out! I don't know what everyone is talking about with the Rezound screen being "beautiful" and "as good as the GNex's"

My fellow Androidian, your statement alone discredits the entire biased article for, if a device needs that much development then, it is severely flawed and lacking. Case in point, DROID X has a HUGE development community and is one of the buggiest and flawed smartphones (of any OS) I have ever owned. My DROID RAZR™, however, I've been able to use right 'outta' the box' without a need to hack it or tweak it. The only issue for some (not I) has been the battery life, which has been addressed in the RAZR™ MAXX™ for the battery-hungry. The Galaxy Nexus, on the other hand, has been documented as having a host of technical bugs. The above article carries no weight with me; it was probably written by someone sympathetic to the Galaxy Nexus (very good phone but, not better than the DROID™ RAZR™).

I have just about every new Android phone made, crazy I know, The Motorola phones have the best radios out of all phone manufacturers. IMO the Razr Maxx is the best Android phone today. The Nexus has not impressed me at all. The software is obviously fantastic but the hardware is a major fail. Being a Nexus owner from the beginning and owning all the Nexus phones the hardware on the last two just suck. I am a major supporter of the Android platform but Google needs to up their hardware, any real Android lover knows this but will not say it. I'm hoping when the deal goes thru with Motorola the Google line will be changed to the Motorola hardware. The Nexus radio is much weaker then any Verizon LTE phone, no sd card and bugs galore. IMO the Motorola Razr Maxx is the best Android phone out of the box.

We have both the Nexus and a Rezound in our household, and its just neck and neck. Hackability vs. Hyper-Everything

I have a GNex so I would agree I just think it's funny you picked the Razr over the GNex in phone of the year but best VzW phone now for Feb 2012 is the GNex? Strange.

I just see it as them finally admitting their mistake and asking for forgiveness.

All is forgiven. There is really NO debate about this one.

I'm getting a little verklempt. Talk amongst yourselves. I'll give you a topic: Best U.S. Android Phones - As of Feb. 1, 2012... ;P

This came at a perfect time as my contract with sprint just ran out and i was having trouble picking between the SGSII and the HTC EVO 3D. I havent made the purchase yet so feel free to tell me you disagree with the choice and why. Last upgrade I got stuck with an optimus S and I am determined to get the best phone on sprint this time.

I have a Evo 3d, and its a good phone. That said, I'd get the ET4G. The amoled screen, way better camera, and exynos is pretty much the deciding factors. Because of the 3D camera, development on the 3vo is slower than it should be

My friend has the EVO 3D and it is a really good phone but I picked up the Epic 4G Touch and glad I did. It's really smooth and the display is absolutely beautiful. I don't think you can go wrong with either but my suggestion would be for the SGS2.

I would wait a couple months my friend as the GSII and EVO3D are really showing their age. LTE is just around the corner and I promise it will be worth the wait as WiMAX is going nowhere and you will be stuck on a network that wont see any updates and a phone that wont have the hardware to run LTE. If you absolutely have to get a phone then consider the Galaxy S. You still get the AMOLED screen and ICS makes the phone run much better than the EVO3D and GSII. If you can wait then get the Galaxy Nexus or see what specs the unicorn that will be known as the SGSIII will have.

Hope this helps and again this is only my opinion on the matter so I would just see what meets your needs. For me Sense, Blur, and especially TouchWiz ruin the experience believe me I've owned enough of em in the past couple years :)

I got the EVO 3D because it was on sale for $50. I'm happy with it. Personally, I like the size better than the GSII. And the 3D takes some pretty cool family videos. That's subjective.

I can understand why they picked the GSII over the EVO3D, but I'm surprised they picked the EVO Design over the EVO 3D. The Design is a fine midrange phone, and it may have a somewhat better 2D camera and battery life, but overall it's just not in the same league and it's single-core processor could limit future upgrades.

Awesome dude!! I was thinking the same thing. Maybe he wanted to get this article out before the Note came out so he would have an excuse not to have Samsung as the best phone on every carrier...lol

How about taking a look at US Cellular? I think that for a 3G phone the Motorola Electrify is a fantastic phone.

What about the Photon 4G on Sprint? Yea the pen tile screen and so so camera is a 2nd look, but the Phone is really great in the quality department. I find it to be fantastic with the tegra 2 CPU. But that's just me. P.S. Sprint SCREWED The photon with 1 complete stupid commercial that didn't even talk about the phones features. SPRINT YOU SUCK.

Yep, heard nothing more about it after the initial release. You can tell there wasn't a lot of push to get this phone out there to the masses.

Really, everybody? I throw out that softball and icebike wins the Grammar Troll of the Post award? The rest of you need to work a little harder.

dude,VIVID? really?.. my friend has that phone and it feels like crap.. My infise 4g is better then that hunk of poopoo.. (yes,i said poopoo)

Meh.... am I the only one that finds the galaxy nexus overrated... Yes its a nice phone but spec wise its not really a big jump from the galaxy s 2. Stock Android 4.0 makes the galaxy nexus what it is.

For me the 720p Super AMOLED display is enough to run circles around the SGSII. a 480x800 on a 4.5+ screen just doesnt cut it. The Galaxy Nexus is a pretty big update to the SGSII and I am willing to bet the SGSIII will be more than likely just playing catch up in every spec except the processor and the difference between vanilla Android and TouchWiz will be a bigger jump in real life usage than the faster processor will. The SGSII doesnt have NFC either plus the build on the Galaxy Nexus is much better as well. People that discredit the Galaxy Nexus more than likely haven't spent any time with the phone. As for me I've owned both. Samsung makes great hardware, has a the best screens, and the Exynos is the best processor on the Android market but they ruin the entire experience with TouchWiz. It runs horribly, looks like complete trash, adds nothing to the experience (except maybe the power control easy on/off buttons on notification screen), and never gets updates. In my opinion the only thing overrated right now is Samsung phones.

The T-Mobile SGS2 has NFC.

720P is great, but the higher the resolution, the more processor/GPU it takes to run it.

I love my SGS2. The resolution is fine. I'd rather have a fast as hell phone with WVGA then a slowed-down phone with 720P.

Nope, I'm with you on that. Weak specs and still crap Samsung build quality. I had the droid Charge and everyone who had the Thunderbolt said the charge build quality was just crap and how could you live with that cheap plastic thing. The same tools jumped on the Nexus bandwagon and say omg the build quality is great. Light =/= cheap and blah blah blah. Without ICS, that phone is crap. I HIGHLY doubt I'll ever buy another Samsung phone.

I had both phones and had no problem with the build quality. I don't care if the phone is made out of aluminum foil, as long as it works good for me.

I feel the same way. The galaxy s2 is better than the nexus. The best devices are the razr max, original razr and galaxy s2

take away the dev community and the gnex is nothing. the rezound dev support keeps on growing. people just buy the nexus b/c of the name, if there was 600mhz POS phone, ppl would buy it as long as it was branded with "NEXUS".

This. The Nexus One was the last impressive Nexus. Everything since then has been rather mediocre.

All these phones will get ICS eventually. You can always upgrade the software, but you are stuck with the hardware for the life of the phone. Hardware > Software.

I love the vivid. I have used the skyrocket and I really like the vivid more. I I traded in the rocket. I like the screen and build of the vivid and I actually like sense. There is no lag and its quick. Both are great its just preference though.

As far as I'm concerned, the 10 month old Thunderbolt is still Verizon's best phone! It has matured into a very stable device that still holds its own against newer phones. And still the only one with a native kickstand! ;P

Just noticed above that Lloyd is still diggin it... :D

I'm glad your liking yours. Mine was a complete nightmare and was desserted a long time ago by both Verizon and HTC. I loved HTC and that phone turned me away. Then again to be fair I've had bad experiences with all skinned phones except the HTC Incredible (that was a nice skinned phone), but the Tbolt was the worst. It would never hold a data connection (not 4G or 3G, my GNexus has great signal so its not my area), has the worst battery ever put in a phone, ran horribly, had more bugs than any phone besides the crap Motorola puts out, and the build was horrible (I never dropped that phone and I keep my devices in perfect working order and this phone looks like it went through WWII.

I always did like the overall look and feel of the phone though and I thought it was the perfect size. I really tried to love that phone I just couldnt get past the many problems it had.

Thanks :) Yah, if I had those problems, regardless of phone, I'd feel differently. But, mine has been rock solid and the best phone I've ever owned (all stock, not rooted too). It's always locked onto LTE, excellent battery life, runs like a champ, and still looks as pristine as the first day out of the box (no case either). Being the first LTE phone out of the gate, I think a lot of people jumped ship early. But, those of use who rode it out have been rewarded with a solid mature device. :)

I purchased the Evo 3D and few months later gave that to my wife to replace her Evo 4G and got the E4GT. I have to say, E4GT wins big time. In April I'm eligible for an upgrade and my next phone will have to be a quadcore. Maybe I'll wsit for SGS3 or GNex with MUCH better camera.

Have the EVO 3d and it runs smooth and fast. Dose what i need without a problem and the 3d can be fun . It's only problem was everyones hangup on the 3d thing. It's just a plus to a great phone. Will be waiting a while before I look for an upgrade.

Really? I can't not post this. The vivid over the skyrocket? The vivid's screen is nice but the super amoled plus is far better. It also has a Mich better processor. That was a lousy pick. Even if you did it just to not have Samsung rule this post.

I don't use all these phones and live with them for days weeks (or more) like phil and the guys. I have a job of my own.

I'm a regular reader and I bought a cmda gnex based in large part on the opinions of the writers on this site; I am extremely pleased. They helped me to know what to expect. YMMV.

I can't help but laugh i left sprint in Nov for the Galaxy Nexus and very proud i did. Yes i miss my Evo 3d which was the best sprint device back in june 2011. I also had the Evo 4g too from june 2010 to june 24th 2011 rolled with HTC. Time changes carriers change and android changes all android devices will NEVER BE CREATED EQUAL. Top of the line today in my book is as follows...1. Galaxy Nexus..2. Galaxy Note..3. Galaxy S 2 Skyrocket Hd.. 4. Galaxy S2 Skyrocket.. 5 Samsung Galaxy S2..6 Htc Rezound..7. Htc Amaze 4g..8. Htc Vivid..I will stop here. Special mention made to the Razr Maxx for that 3300 Mah battery and another mention to sprints Galaxy Epic touch 4g which really should be number 3 on my list behind the Galaxy Note. Bottomline here folks is stock android is tops today it has grown into the best overall experience espically with ics that any android lover should want to experience. My Galaxy Nexus is my first pure stock experience and i can tell you today NEVER WILL I EVER VEER AWAY FROM STOCK. Pure android is elegant and smooth a clear work of love from google. If your not rolling with the GALAXY NEXUS then your simply not really in the android game at all. The Galaxy Nexus is android and represents it's future very well it won't be till June or july till any current device will see ice cream. Meanwhile jellybean is being tested now who you think will be the first to see jellybean that's right today's GALAXY NEXUS as well as the upcoming new Nexus in Nov/Dec 2012. Those other devices above wont see that anytime soon that's forsure. My Galaxy Nexus is FUTURE PROOF nothing else is.

I realize Jellybean is the next big update to Android, but I honestly want to know what you or anyone else thinks could possibly even be conceived from it?

I mean really it seems at this point the only thing that would need to be implemented is the option of pure android on any device, it's already possible, I know people say you shouldn't have to root your phone to get it's best experience, but with so many one-click method's becoming available for all these devices, really all you have to do is know how to follow directions to avoid having your phone become a brick.

I find it funny that you left Sprint for the Galaxy Nexus and yet here it comes in a couple months. How's the tiered data working out? Cause my unlimited is great. I realize this part is trollish, sorry. Well enjoy your Nexus, I'll enjoy mine soon.

You definately have to be kidding...The Galaxy Nexus on Verizon TRUMPS anything on sprint. A proven LTE network compared to what?? And my 10gb of data monthly for 50 dollars is doing just fine compared to the unlimited wimax data i had on sprint. I never used more than 3 to 4 gb monthly anyway when i was on sprint. By the time you see any real Galaxy Nexus on sprint it will be June or July the standard time sprint gets anything new worthwhile on their network anyway. Don't forget CTIA isn't till May this year so baring any LTE NETWORK SNAGGS sprint wont see it till july. By that time Verizon will have the Nexus tablet and Galaxy Journal which will be our Galaxy Note.....Trumped again as usual....

I'm just glad you're a Verizon troll now, and thus stopped making Sprint users look bad.

I can't help but laugh at how you've flip-flopped more than a US politician though.

Richyboy, just stop it already. All you do is troll websites with your stupidity. Aren't you like in your forties? LOL First of all the Sprint Nexus is going to have better specs. So that right there makes jumping ship looking like a big epic fail. I agree with the others, I'm glad you left Sprint. You made us all look bad.

Let's see...you rule, everyone else drools? Whatever, dude... BTW, the world ends on 12/21/2012. That new Nexus you speak of may never see the light of day. :)

Paragraphs....look into it.

I'm always shocked when so many posts seem to be written by semi-literate people hopped up on 5-Hour Energy drinks. You'd think a tech blog would attract more articulate people.

Your so right on this. The people, it's like there no even thinking when they right comments here. This site could be so much more funner then any other if people just new how to comment more better.

Funny how the "best" is debated based on all the specs and capabilities. In my book "best" is the product that is durable, dependable and the most "mobile". All you guys who rant & rave about the HTC phones? You're probably too young to remember the brick cellies...but I swear the EVO4 reminds me of having to lug one of those heavy bastards around! LMFAO

Fair warning disclaimer: I am about to go on a rant that will most likely be pretty far off topic and long winded, but hey, you've been warned...

I don't think there's any one "best" phone, but I do think there are plenty of crap phones that shouldn't even be on the market. I'm amazed at the stuff pushed onto consumers...almost like no testing whatsoever done on many of these "smart"phones? I think there is probably a "best" based on individual needs/requirements, however.

As someone who just recently entered the smartphone/Android universe (Black Friday 2011), my extended observation and limited personal experience leads me to this conclusion: there are far too many folks with smartphones that simply don't *need* them. I consider myself one of those folks. I merely caved into peer pressure (and ridicule), largely from my girlfriend and her daughter. I still use a phone as a phone, mostly. I text, but don't like to. I don't need up-to-the-minute stock reports, hourly weather updates, access to important documents, breaking news, TV, joke of the day, 3 e-mail accounts, Facebook (which I don't have), shopping, advertisements...I could go on and on...24/7. I can't help but being reminded of the GEICO commercial, you know, where the tag line says, "People do really dumb things with their smartphones.", and proceeds to show 3 office nerds using various apps to act like idiots.

I'm not even ashamed to admit I bought a Samsung S (not an S II). Actually, I bought two for $100, and the local carrier I went with bought out two contracts (my girlfriend and I) from Sprint. That move alone saved us over $60 a month, and we still get unlimited everything. She was using an Optimus S that was junk. It constantly froze and had to be hard booted, not to mention inherent issues with the SD card, which evidently, came from Sprint without being properly formatted for the phone. I graduated from a Samsung Reclaim and my only complaint was the utterly all but useless tiny keyboard...but it worked flawlessly for what I used it for.

I chose Samsung specifically because of good experience with their products. I see people here trashing Motorola, and you mentioned the Razr V3. I actually owned a V3 at one time and I loved that phone! Dropped it off a friends balcony once, from the 3rd story, and it still worked! So actually, I do still consider the V3 one of the "best" phones I ever owned, and I'm tickled to see Motorola re-introduce the Razr product line. Once upon a time, the only two brands of cell phones I would consider owning were Motorola or Nokia. But times change and products change.

I also noticed a couple posters here mentioning the "feel" of particular phones, noting that and equating lightweight to cheapness or poor manufacturing quality. Weight, or rather the lack of it, was one of the deciding factors in my latest phone purchase. Don't know if anyone here has noticed or not, but the Asian electronic market, and more specifically the laptop computer market, differs quite drastically from the western market. They prefer thin and lightweight, basically portability, and are willing to sacrifice the hardcore performance and processing power, leaving those tasks to the desktops at home or in the office. I would think that mentality would also translate to smaller devices, like smartphones. My girlfriend's daughter had the EVO4g (she's since "upgraded" to an i4S) and both her mother and I laughed at the weight of it. Seriously, one of the heaviest smartphones I've had the displeasure to physically hold, and in no way do I equate the added bulk to better quality.

Want to know another kick in the groin about the EVO? We got it through Sprint, and because it was a 4g device, a $10 adder was tacked onto the account...the catch is there was no 4g coverage in our area. As I write this, there is still only limited coverage in one city nearby, and still no coverage (or plans for any) in the town where she attends college. Although I nearly always connect at 3g, at times I find myself connected to 1x. I know, laughable. I only mention this in that, at the present time, 4g capability is a moot point in my smartphone purchasing decision, and a major reason I despise Sprint for using it as a selling tactic in my area.

My problem with "Best of" lists are the parameters in which *best* is determined. Almost like the title of the article is incomplete. Maybe it should be titled "The best *NEW* U.S. Android Phones" or "The best U.S. Android Phones in regards to Hardware Specifications"? Personally, the things that matter to me as a consumer are as follows, but not necessarily in any particular order:

1) Call clarity. Can the phone receive good signal strength where it should? Nothing is as bothersome as a dropped (AT&T, are you listening?) or static filled call, especially when it's hardware related.

2) Speaker volume. Both the earpiece and the on board speaker. The phones ARE mobile and the environment isn't always a quiet one. One needs to be able to hear above the surrounding din.

3) Durability. Can the phone withstand the occasional and nearly unavoidable waist-high or ear-high drop? I *know* one isn't supposed to drop the blasted things, but it's going to happen, sooner or later.

4)Dependability. Is it going to work when you turn it on...every time? Can the buttons withstand thousands of presses without becoming "mushy" or tricky to use? Can the battery cover withstand numerous removals without snapping, loosening or breaking altogether? Will the charging port and earphone jack remain tethered after hundreds, if not thousands, of uses? I know these devices aren't built to last a lifetime, but they should last at least a year, perhaps even two given the two-year contract terms offered by most cell providers. Many, MANY don't.

5) Value. I'm sorry, but $600-700 to step into the newest, latest, greatest cell phone, that between various manufacturers, debuts a new model every couple of months, is *not* value...at least not in my book. Here's a novel idea, phone manufacturers. How about developing a frame/case (foresight) that can encompass new and developing technologies. It's called "standardization". It's how one keeps costs down. Let's face it, a phone can only get so big, in regards to screen size, before it becomes cumbersome to hold or a pain to tote around. Same goes with thickness and weight. I know cell providers are using *exclusive* brands and models to attract customers, when they *should* be using customer service, quality and dependability of their infrastructure as selling points instead. That is why, IMHO, cell providers are part of the problem and not part of the solution.

Funny, but out of all the reviews & honorable mentions, I didn't notice *any* of the parameters I mentioned above being used as a quantitative measure of how good these phones actually are. What I saw was a bunch of technical specifications in regards to speed, resolution, aesthetics and the like that don't mean squat to the *average* user. So does androidcentral basically pander to the uber-geeks and those with enough disposable income to not even bat an eyelash at dropping several hundred dollars on a mere want? Again, and IMHO, androidcentral is doing a great disservice to the *average* smartphone user.

Another thing I don't quite grasp is the sheeple mentality where the iCrowd stand in line (some camping out?) for hours to get their hands on the newest $600 offering? It's an effin' cell PHONE! Not a laptop, not a major household appliance. Oh, I see where it's going plainly enough...an all-encompassing personal device that people just can't possibly *live* without. Actually more like a micro-netbook with the ability to make phone calls. Thing is, the people who don't actually *need* everything a smartphone has to offer have various ways and hundreds of excuses to justify owning one. I think it's simply because they don't want to feel left out, or like me, have been chided into obtaining one.

So how about it androidcentral? How about a useful article for the average smartphone user with regards to the *best* affordable & practical smartphone offerings? An article with sustenance that reviews smartphones with proven track records in real world usage, instead of the newest (advertisement?), most expensive entries into the market you guys get to play with a week or two. I mean, let's face it, if this had been a review of new cars, would you merely describe how shiny the paint was, how good the manufacturer badge looked on the grill or how luxurious the interior was without relaying what you discovered on the test drive?

Well done. Completely clear and articulate. Are you sure you are an AC poster?

My mention of the Motorola RAZR V3 was only partially in jest. I personally think the V3 is one of the most perfect phones ever conceived. Not only did I have one, I still do and it still works. Recently, I gave it to my daughter and had to charge it up and test etc. I had forgotten what it's like. I'm still really impressed with that phone.

I think the only people who "need" a smartphone are developers and business people. The rest of us want them and get varying degrees of use out of them. I know I don't need my neato pocket computer, but I do think it has enriched my life. Need is a high bar after all. The only things human really need is water, food, shelter and possibly companionship. The rest is gravy.

I LOVE this reply cause it applies to ALL blog sites and followers. I can't begin to explain how frustrating it is to watch these video reviews now and the majority of the video is spent with mindless babble and constant flipping of the device.

+1. I waited with an upgrade for 6 mos. to see the trio of superphones - Galaxy Nexus, Rezound, and Razr. I bought the HTC Dinc 2 for free (on contract) over Thanksgiving weekend knowing I had the extended return period to see if anything better would come along. After trying out all three they are ALL TOO BIG for me (but especially the Nexus). I thought (and still think that 4.0" is the perfect size for a phone). Everyone I see with a 4.3 or bigger phone always has them out of their pocket whenever they have a chance because it is so big and bulky. Anyways, the Dinc 2 is my first Android smartphone and I think Sense is fine. If there is lag its very minor and I like some of the things HTC has done. I have no idea what stock Gingerbread looks like and I'm fully prepared to live with Gingerbread if HTC decides not to update the Dinc 2. I live in a small rural town so I don't think I'll see LTE until I'm ready for another upgrade and quite frankly I like reliable 3G with Verizon and a phone that always has a good signal vs. the other carriers. I'm hoping they will downsize some good specs to a 4.0" phone by time I'm ready for another phone. I think everyone should like the phone they have and be prepared for something better, faster, etc. to come out 2-3 months after you buy yours. I do agree that most web sites cater to the geeks rather than looking at the average consumer. There is no TRUE BEST PHONE - it depends on your needs and paying $300 for on contract is getting a little pricey. JMHO and YMMMV.

How DARE you!
Sorry. Just wanted to get in on the rage. I have an Optimus V. Didn't expect to make the list.

Seriously, the Vivid over the Skyrocket? What the hell were you thinking Phil? Or perhaps drinking????? I had 2 Vivids and they were terrible. Could not use the speaker phone couldn't hear it when it rang (the guys at BB Mobile verified this),yeah the build is sound but the Skyrocket tops it in everything else, screen, processor, battery life and so on. I know it's "subjective" but wow you really missed the boat on this one. Perhaps you should go back and read Jerry's review of the phone. Even he said the Skyrocket was the best phone on AT&T right now. Drink less spell more when you write this dribble. Sorry to hit below the belt but really? The Vivid? Geez!

I wonder what custom kernel the Razr was running in that video...oh oops nevermind :) Also 540x960 = really good resolution lol.

p.s. quadrant/benchmarks are absolutely useless! especially on ICS.

p.p.s. youtube app he clicked on razr first then gnex and gnex opened first and he called it a draw. that guy sucks at testing stuff.

I love the way they make the Droid Razor the phone of the year about a month ago but now all of a sudden its the Galaxy Nexus. I do not disagree but It is funny how the do not even stick to what they say.

Advertising dollars will buy you a lot of love on this site. Galaxy Nexus ad top of the page right now.

Ive played with all the phones on verizon and i think the razr maxx is fantastic. Its the first time im considering a moto phone. I mean face it guys all previous android phones have crappy battery, the maxxx solves that and then some. Imo once it gets ice cream it will be the best phone on verizon. Yes the bootloader is locked but there is ways around that. The phone can be rooted and roms will come.

And you need a custom kernel why? If you can root and ROM, what exactly is the benefit TO YOU of a custom kernel?

Overclocking pissing contests.

It makes you wonder that if these geeks got laid, we'd probably never hear about overclocking. Macho dudes have their Hummers. Nerds have their kernels.

Hahaha. I picture these dudes tirelessly hacking their phones into the wee hours of the night from their "office" in mommy's basement

I think the switch from the phone of the year just shows how close these phones are. It's off that people seem to get so bent pout of shape over it. I have my gnex and love it. No problems at all, and I'm flashing all sorts of stuff to make it even better. But I recently recommended a friend get a maxx the other day. Why? Because like most people who get an android phone, she will never root it or flash roms. She will get ics when it is pushed to her phone and not miss it before she does. She will have signal when others don't, and recharge every other day.
I still keep my inc 2 charged up and use it on wifi, and am still amazed at how good and solid it feels in my hand.
The best phone depends on how you use it.

TBH, while I disagree with this list (but we all have opinions and neither are "right"), and I constantly drool after the Razr, I love my almost 2 year old (even though I bought it 2 months ago) MyTouch 4G by HTC. IMO, Stock Android is too boring for my taste, even ICS. I LOVE MIUI and it works flawlessly. My "4g" (don't believe I had true 4G anyhow) is gone but oh well I still have great speeds. Point is, be happy with what YOU purchased and stop arguing others' opinions on what they feel is the best. If you are happy with what you've bought, that's all that matters

The MT4G is not two years old. It came out around October or November of 2010. We're barely into 2012.

If anyone has seen the test build for ice on the razor, you would truly see how ics will thrive. I am amazed bithe test build and can't wait until it is ripping android up as we ota the update. Droid razor all day. Its all personal preference

Funny... when I went into my T-Mobile store for my upgrade, the guys said that hands down the Amaze 4G was a better phone, on several counts, than the Galaxy S II. I went with the Amaze and am really happy I did. That phone is lightning fast, and the camera is amazing.. and does much more than the GS II. When I picked up the GS II I was surprised at how cheap it felt, frankly it turned me off to the phone. The Amaze has far better build quality... it isn't even a contest. In terms of the UI... well, I am just an ordanary guy that uses the phone stock out of the box. I could care less about putting a third party ROM on my phone or messing with the software. When I compared the stock HTC software with Samsung, again, their was simply no comparison... HTC ran rings around Samsung.

For whatever reason the guys at Android Central seem really stuck on Samsung phones. Clearly the Amaze 4G is a better phone. But then again, I don't work for Android Central and have the bias towards Samsung phones that they do.

There's no way the Amaze is faster than the SGSII. They use the same 1.5Ghz processor, but the Amaze has to handle the bloatfest that is Sense. Touchwiz isn't everyone's cup of tea, but it's a pretty light skin when it comes to performance. Sense is a performance nightmare as it soaks up cycle after cycle with its useless 3D animations.

I would also disagree on the build quality. Metal does not automatically equal better. People also somehow associate heavier with better build quality. Just wait until you get some dust under the screen. Then we'll see what you think about HTC build quality.

"For whatever reason the guys at Android Central seem really stuck on Samsung phones."

It's because they are better than HTC this generation. You claim to be a newbie. If so, you should acknowledge the collective wisdom of those that live and breath phones. The vast majority prefer Samsung.

"Clearly the Amaze 4G is a better phone."

No. It's not.

Sorry, you lose on this one. No, heavier and metal doesn’t equate to build quality, but cheap, bendable plastic does equate to poor build quality. Even the T-Mobile Reps in the store commented on how disappointed they were with the cheap build quality of the SGII.

I have had numerous HTC phones and never had dust under the screen on any of them. That could be because I use a high quality screen saver and clean the thing a couple of times a day. But the fact remains… no dust…. or other particles under the screen on the Amaze either.

As for speed… I stood in the T-Mobile store with 3 Reps next to me and compared the Amaze to the SCII and the Amaze was absolutely faster in terms of transitioning from App to App and screen to screen. I asked them flat out… which was the best phone they had in the store and all 3 said… “the Amaze hands down”. I have worked with the same T-Mobile store for over 6 years and the same Reps have been in that store all that time. They know me very well and have always steered me in the right direction. I was initially looking at the SGII, but the staff highly suggested I not get it. I am glad they did!

The only reason the Amaze has not sold as well as T-Mobile had hoped is that it was too much money. It is a one-off phone with one off parts that cost HTC more to acquire and produce. It was a nice experiment that the average guy on the street would not spend the money on. As for me, I just wanted the very best phone T-Mobile had, and the Amaze was it.

And yes, there is a bias on Android Central towards Samsung phones… I am not sure why this is, as there are many fine Android phones out there that are as good, if not better. But it is their web site, not mine. I simply come here to read, learn and from time-to-time participate in discussions.

Oh.. as far as being new to the phone space. I have been using Blackberry literally since day one (before they were ever phones) and have had nearly a dozen different Android phones to date. I am not new to the space by any means... I am fairly new to the forum.

A couple things I wonder. Like I wonder what percentage commission these reps make on HTC vs. Samsung?

Also, you said, and I quote;
"The only reason the Amaze has not sold as well as T-Mobile had hoped is that it was too much money. It is a one-off phone with one off parts that cost HTC more to acquire and produce. It was a nice experiment that the average guy on the street would not spend the money on. As for me, I just wanted the very best phone T-Mobile had, and the Amaze was it."

In a side-by-side comparison of the HTC Amaze & the Samsung Galaxy SII on T-Mobile's website:

http://www.t-mobile.com/shop/phones/Compare.aspx?devices=f0decb6a-f6f7-41ae-9d70-35fcae2777f8,f375ae8a-329a-4706-b387-8cd4b0d6e379&features=371e5c4a-3dc6-4404-86d0-c59f8d8baa3b,&manufacturer=

Yep, the two phones are nearly identical in every aspect, including price. The price you see in the comparison, and the difference between the two, reflect a $100 rebate on the Amaze, whereas the SGSII only offers a $50 rebate, and both phones include a $320 instant discount (with a 2 year contract). Both phones suggested retail price is $599.99. In actuality, the Samsung costs more to leave the store with. So that leaves me wondering, should be be trusting these reps as much as you do? Don't get me wrong, if you're happy with your purchase, that's really all that matters. Just saying...

I'm switching from BlackBerry to Android, I have chosen and order the Samsung Galaxy S II from T-mobile. I just read this article, and I am glad that I pick the right phone I heard alot good things about it. It should arrive Thursday afternoon. I got the galaxy tab 8.9 for Xmas and I am in love it, I have been a loyal blackberry addict since 2005, but now I am just frustrated with the limits of it OS. It's time for me to join the android nation.

I agree! What are you guys thinking here at Android Central. You can't just look at hardware alone you have to look at support for the hardware.

How come nobody mentions the NUMEROUS issues with the GN. I had this phone for two weeks and had nothing but problems, including image burn on the screen, freezing up, wifi connectivity issues, low quality audio, and the list goes on. Finally returned it for the RAZR after the battery door started falling off. Couldn't be more pleased.
Just holding the phone in the hand the RAZR feels better made. Motorola simply has vastly more experience designing these devices than any other company...peroid.

Because maybe not everyone received a faulty nexus? Yea, I know it must be a shocker for you to learn that you're experience with a phone is not how phones get rated by all.

I went through 3 GN's before returning.
btw...
You're = you are
your = possessive
Geez, does the gradeschool grammer/spelling ever stop.
Opinions would be respected more if they were conveyed correctly.

I'm dissapointed with the vivid it should of been an omoled dual core updated version of the desire HD or inspire its a solid build and the inspire is still a good phone. It just needs to be updated with 2 gigs of usable ram and a choice between sense and stock it would sell like wild fire in california

The only reason the tech blogs are jerking off to the Galaxy Nexus is that it was released with ICS. If you compare the hardware to the Rezound the Galaxy Nexus doesn't stand a chance. I've used both the Rezound, Razr, and the Nexus and can say without a doubt that my Rezound - NOT the Galaxy Nexus - is the best handset in Verizon's lineup. Oh, and my Rezound doesn't have tech blogger splooge all over it. Added bonus.

I'd encourage the braintrusts behind the "Best Phones" to do an apples-to-apples side by side comparison on a site like Phonescoop, as I am surprised at so little mention of the HTC Rezound. The Nexus stats are surpisingly lacking for the "latest/greatest". Things like pixel density to resolution ration is higher with the rezound, front facing camera is higher rez, it has expandable storage, faster processor. All but ICS, which really, Gingerbread has been around longer giving it greater access to apps, etc. I kind of liken it to everytime Microsoft releases a new OS, there is a lot of us that do not switch right away. Lastly, Beats, some call it a gimick, I call it a "if I am gonna listen to music or audio books, I want the best sound possible" feature. IMHO

Is there a huge diff b/w an HTC phone with Beats Audio and one without? i have an EVO 3D and the sound quality out of that thing is great. i also have a Touchpad (supposedly with Beats Audio) and i would say it is no better. if anything it's worse because it can't put out as high of volume.

The Beats audio is not something that I would call a deal breaker. I will note, however, that if there is no difference, there are a number of devs who have put out apps "cloning" or mimicking the settings for the Beats audio algorithm. That, to me, indicates that there is something about the Beats audio feature that others want on other devices.

so in essence Beats Audio is a branding on how the audio is processed and not what is physically doing the processing? So HTC spent all that money acquiring Beats for updated audio drivers? haha

That may be oversimplified, but you are in going in the right direction. It is closer to a customized set of sound settings designed to maximize the sound quality. It is also to improve the user experience, like Sense, Motoblur, and other add ons that individual manufacturers embed in their devices.

The main factor on my next phone will be 1. battery size and 2. whether cyanogenmod has an official release for it.

I'll say this...Verizon has some fantastic android phones right now. My wife and I just upgraded our phones and we tested all three (Nexus, Rezound, and Maxx). I took the Nexus because I like to tinker. I had my wife take the Maxx because I wanted a LTE phone that would just work. She is not the type to tinker, hack, root, or take advantage of the stuff a nexus can offer. I didn't want her to worry about battery draining because of LTE. She just needed a phone that has great hardware and can last along time.

Also, I'm man enough to admit that I'm jealous of her battery life!

It's funny because the Epic 4G Touch has beaten all of these phones in comparison videos on youtube. Everyone talks about the display being shitty even though it's one of the best on the market when you have it in your hands, regardless of what the specs are. On top of that it will be getting ICS soon, and when it does Galaxy Nexus will look like a thing of the past.

My next phone needs to have an unlockable bootloader, AMOLED screen, and a large screen. Unless Motorola releases a Droid RAZR MAXX Developer Edition, I will have to buy a Samsung Phone. I'd also like to see some 720p AMOLED screens on Moto hardware.

I like that the author is "android central". No one wants to get singled out for bashing in the forums. Good work guys.

Samsung galaxy s II on any carrier is father superior than ANY Android phone on the current market, it had the best camera fast processor good quality display expandable memory even a 2mp front camera, it is the best hands down even better than galaxy nexus because the process and camera is superb to nexus not to mention nexus has no expandable memory, and Google doesn't even update their nexus phones in a timely fashion go ask any g 1 or nexus s owners the galaxy s II will be dominant for the remaining of this year no need to upgrade until galaxy s 4 comes out

Where is the HD Display? Oh, that's right, not there. Well, then it is not the best phone. Man, this is simple stuff here.

Where's the SD card slot? Oh, that's right, not there. Well, then the GNex is not the best phone. Man, this is simple stuff here.

Always interesting read, when guys are discussing and defending their opinion and don`t leave room for other views. I have to admit as active part of the dev community (mainly Milestone & Desire HD in the past), that I might be a bit biased towards a Nexus device. But... the last iterations of Gnex did not make it in my pockets, since MS and DHD delivered more for me at that time. In any case the major point for me buying the Galaxy Nexus was by far getting my hands on the first really polished Android version, which really grows on you while using it. Work with ICS for a week and suddenly Gingerbread feels veeeery old. It`s a lot of small pieces, features and aesthetics, that fold nicely together and also proves iOS an "old" system from a design standpoint.

Nevertheless this does not mean it`s the best device out there, it`s only the best for me at this time. I have to admit that usually I`m more into "heavy" metal phones like Milestone (say Droid...) or DHD, but the buttonless front, nice curve and ICS just won the race. Having said this, I`m fairly open for other opinions and preferences, since everyone has different tastes and usage patterns. How can you seriously compare a Galaxy Note and an Xperia Mini :-)

The only part where I have a hard time is Gingerbread users arguing about that Android version being superior or on par with ICS. Being a designer myself, the consistent look and polish in ICS is really miles ahead of Gingerbread, where Google delivered many design flaws. You still can personally prefer the little bit childish design approach and I respect that, but that still does not make it any better by common design standards. So rating Galaxy nexus as best phone is fair as long as it`s clear, that the real winner is Android 4.0 and not Samsung. Finally we will all get 4.0 goodness and be prepared for a much better and coherent experience.

What's this? A voice of calming tranquility and reason adrift in a sea of utter madness and chaotic opinion flaming? How dare you, Sir! :)

I agree. ICS is indeed the real winner, and will be more enjoyable on a GSII or Razr compared to the GNex IMO.

Well respected as long as this means for you. We can just be happy, that we have so many hardware CHOICES compared to our iOS friends, who still are waiting, that Apple finally offers anything bigger then 3.5"

I owned the Galaxy Nexus, and now have the Rezound. The Rezound is better in my opinion, even with all the bloatware.

AMEN BROTHA! I'm right there with ya. I don't want a phone that needs hacking. I just want a phone that talks good and is reliable. So far, the rezound has been exactly that. Coming from a thunderbolt, it is definately a step up in every way. The Gnex feels like a turd in my hand and the razor is just bizzare with it's crappy screen and it's as wide as my pickup to hold. What the hell is wrong with moto these days. They release a new version of that stupid RAZR like every hour! There is no reason why Moto shouldn't make the world's best phones cause they use to! Many moons ago!

And this is why one other site a certian fruit phone wins all the awards. Because we can't all get along.

Each Phone is going to be good for a veriaty of reason to each person. I have friends who have the Nexus a few complain about battery lifee and a few complain cause they never get 4g signal (in Phoenix so not a podunk town) One phone is not going to meet everyones requirements. No matter how much you try to force a phone down someones throat some is always going to have an issue with it for one reason or another.

I have a rezound, My friend has a Razr and a few have Nexus. The only thing we agree on is that they ALL have there strengths and weaknesses. Some think that my battery is to small.. what they don't remember is that I came from a pre so I'm used to having plugs all around me. Some don't like the Rzer cause the battery can't be removed so if you get a bad one the whole device goes back. I can go on all day long.

Just everyone relax and just agree to disagree and remember If you don't like the artivle that this person wrote write your own and either post it on a site somewhere or ask them to post it.. what the worst thing they will do? say no?

and yes I speak and type in Cavemanese! My cavemanese teacher likes the way i write!

I know it's been said, but Design 4G over the Evo 3D?!?!?!??! Seriously?!?!?! I know the 3D is a gimick, but ignoring the 3D and just looking at the hardware specs between the 2, the Evo3D has to be the winner.

I'm curious as to why the author would choose HTC Vivid for AT&T and not Galaxy S II Sky Rocket?

It's the same spec's save for the SGSII has a 4.5" Super AMOLED Plus Screen (I like it better than qHD). They are both sporting LTE, too.

*scratches*

The other 3 carriers are all Samsung devices, might as well round it out :)

Haha... funny... the best phone on Verizon is a Samsung device that can't even hold a voice signal, much less a data signal. Gimme a break! LOL...

-Frank

It all comes down to personal preference. You pick a phone after doing some reserch, and hope you picked right beacuse unless your rich your stuck with it for the next 2 years. And becides it will most likely be replaced within 6 months with a newer and better phone. And you are stuck with no updates.

Central you have a little something on your lip, here I'll get it, oh it looks like it was a little hair gel or maybe some samsung???