What's under the hood?

With the holiday season creeping up on the western world, it's the time of year when many folks are looking at buying a new phone. A quick look at the numbers tells us that a whole bunch of those folks will be looking at Android phones, and that includes all of us.

A big consideration when spending a bunch of money and possibly attaching yourself to a carrier for two or more years is the feature list of a new phone. Hardware specs and software versions move at an amazing rate, and it's hard to decide which one might be perfect for you -- especially knowing that in a month or two newer and better phones will be coming.

When I buy a new phone I look at the software version first. I need to make sure it supports the software I want to use, and decide how well it may support future versions. Others feel that they can better future-proof themselves by going for the best CPU, or the most RAM. And plenty of folks are concerned with things like removable storage, or giant batteries that offer long life. 

As always, the best way to find out what people think is to just ask, so that's what we're doing this week. Look to the sidebar, or jump past the break and tell us what feature matters the most to you.

Before we go, last week's results follow:

Which OEM do you want to see make the next Nexus?

  • HTC -- 36.86-percent
  • Samsung -- 27.49-percent
  • Motorola -- 24.55-percent
  • LG -- 4.9-percent
  • Other -- 6.2-percent

It appears that very few people are thrilled about the evidence of LG making the next Nexus phone. Hopefully, all of the OEMs offer something for everyone and we all can buy what suits our needs.


Reader comments

This week's sidebar poll: What feature is most important?


I couldn't agree more. Nothing is more important than the devs. If the phone is popular, cm will keep you updated. Now there are some others doing big things too.

MicroSD card slot (for MicroSD and MicroSDXC of 64GB or more)

GSM capability(assuming it's on Verizon)

screen size at least 4.5 to 5.0 inches

resolution 1280x720 and must be 16:9, no weird aspect-ratio screen like 16:10, please

no physical home button

removable battery

water resistant

There are several things that make a device worthy of purchase. Several things need be present.
Good battery in an outdated phone or with a small screen wouldn't make me purchase. Same can be said for all those items that a phone must have to be a purchase.
SD, good battery, large screen, up to date OS, etc. Large internal is "ok" without SD.

I voted for internal Sotrage. I assume you mean external snot rag, I always carry one of those in my back pocket.

But seriously, unlocked bootloader, light and thin, and I do like at least 32GB of storage, Removable or not, and lastly I want to come home from a normal day of work with 50% left on my battery. The 2100 mA on GS3 is perfect for my needs.

I think more important is for Google to require the Service Providers (Verizon) to release timely updates as released by Google... After all, this is what makes the Nexus a Nexus...

i would like to request and addition to the poll

"screen technology"

i am more excited by the concept of the LCD2 tech of HTC for a nexus than i am about pure size and resolution.. the slight greenish tint of my SAMOLED nexus screen tells me that there is more to life than high resolution

thats why i voted for HTC in the last poll

A million times this. Or, if you like, "display quality." One HUGE reason I got the HTC EVO LTE instead of the Galaxy S III is because I'd heard reviewers rave about the display of the One X and EVO. Obviously, the screen sizes are almost identical, making that a non-factor.

The other factor that needs to be added: "unlockable bootloader." For especially Verizon customers, getting a phone they can customize to their hearts' content can be deal-breaking or deal-making. This would include the "dev editions" they're starting to sell now for some phones, including the SGS3, Motorola DROID RAZR M, and DROID RAZR HD (supposedly coming soon).

I would have voted for "display technology" or "display quality," but Jerry is human and apparently didn't think of everything. Therefore, I voted for my second choice, battery life.

Most important factor for me is Developer support. Mostly ROM/Kernel/etc developers, but also including app developers as well. If my Iconia Tab A500 didn't have such skilled developers (too many to list, but I can name the majority of them!) I would have deeply regretted buying it. Thankfully, I've been running a nearly rock solid CM10 build on it for ages, long before I got it on my S3 in fact!

You left out one important feature to me, the ability to be used off contact, so I'm not tied down to one phone for 2 years and can upgrade whenever I want

Exactly! No removable battery, no purchase. That is the MAJOR reason I left the iPhone(one of many hundreds but it is the number one reason).

Battery, battery, battery for everyday use.

After owning an Android for nearly two years and having rooted it, I have realised one of the most important aspects to futureproof ones phone is the all important and much appreciated dev community, to keep that phone singing sweetly well into the future.

After the daily frustration of the poor battery on my HTC Rezound, even with the gigantic extended battery, this phone just drains energy like a professional wind sprinter. It's the worst battery performance I can remember in any smartphone I've owned in the last 4 yrs. The Razr HD Maxx is looking good right now.

After the daily frustration of the poor battery on my HTC Rezound, even with the gigantic extended battery, this phone just drains energy like a professional wind sprinter. It's the worst battery performance I can remember in any smartphone I've owned in the last 4 yrs. The Razr HD Maxx is looking good right now.

There are only two things that I would change in my GNex: battery life, and signal reception. I was hoping Motorola would be a good choice to fix the second issue. Since I've never used an LG phone, I can't comment on their radios.

I think that all are needed and more for me to choose a phone. The Note2 IMO brings alot to the table and with the Dev Community Timely updates aren't number 1. If i had to choose from the list since that is the reason for this sidebar i am voting for battery life because no matter how great the phone's specs are its worthless it it can't last all day.

Used to care about having an SD card in my phone before. It's been great having a Galaxy Nexus with an internal 32 GB memory.

Version of android for me. I have the S3, sure I can put CM 10 or AOKP on it which I've tried out, but I loose the cool camera perks and other things Samsung did that I actually like. Also it doesn't run as nice as it should. I noticed some bugs I couldn't deal with on a daily bases. However it does feel dated with stock. It would be nice to have a nexus with a decent camera and some fun tweeks built in.

I voted for OS version. I'm also pretty sure my next phone will be running the S4 Pro, I'm curious to see some battery life results from the phones that will be running it.

I voted Android Version, but I meant more made by a company reputable about OTAs than just flat version number. After being burned by my Atrix (an unfinished version of ICS leaked which showed that their claims of poor performance being behind the cancelation was complete bullshit) I'm in the Nexus or nothing crowd now and when I get a chance I'll be going with a Nexus 4 or HTC Nexus, whatever is out at the time.

From a hardware perspective though, I'd say battery life. My Atrix got a solid 2 days of heavy use on the stock battery when it was new, and I see plenty say that they're impressed with 1 full day of heavy use. I consider both to be rather poor. If innovation in hardware came to a complete halt until battery life was up to a week of real world use, I'd be ecstatic.

I would love for my next phone to be a nexus and have a smaller screen (4.3 inches would make my day). But the android version is more important so i picked that. These phones seem to all have very good battery life so I'm not too worried about that, and I could live with 16 gb of storage. I dont need a removable battery, as long as the battery is as big as the one in my EVO LTE. Even though i have an LTE phone, LTE isnt necessary. I dont have LTE where I live (NY) and I know I'd be fine with HSPA+. I dont see the need for anything faster then that really. RAM and CPU are last on my list because they arent very important to me. A S4 processor (dual core) can handle anything I throw at it and 1gb or ram is more than enough. Although, I'd like for the new nexus to have an Intel processor because I d like to try that out

Have you ever owned a LG phone? Even if you did the reason it may have been crap is because that is what carriers are looking for: a low end POS phone for people who can't drop $200 on a new phone. With Google involved you can bet your *** the quality will be higher.

There are many things not on the poll that others have covered. For me, the number one thing I have to have, is a great phone. Meaning it has to send/receive and hold a strong signal, have excellent earpiece, bluetooth, and speaker. I actually use my phone as phone (a minimum of 4500 minutes per month) so it's very important. Also, the signal strength means I'll have no problems using data or texting. If my phone had 8GB RAM, and 8-core processor, and a 3840x2160 screen and 9000 mAh battery (yes, I know those specs are outlandish), it still needs to have the ability to make and receive phone calls well for me to want it.

External storage. I'll never buy a Nexus 7 with 16 or even 32GB of storage without an external card. I am a major movie fan and use up all 64GB of microSD on my Galaxy S3's with video.

I look for screen size, cpu power, memory size, internal as well as external, and of course the most current os.

Now everyone is saying "Battery Life", but i don't that everyone is being honest, because if they were, they all would have bought a Motorola RAZR HD MAXX, that have A LOT of battery life, but no, everyone is buying the GS3. So they are not being honest here.

I'm planning on getting the Note 2; the one thing that makes me want to upgrade to that over my Galaxy Nexus is the screen size and to a lesser extent the pen input and lte. So for me its the screen size as otherwise I would stay with my GNex.

I think Radio quality would be the best choice for me. (Had it been available) After all, a cellphone is useless for anything but a paperweight with poor signal. (I know, my GNEX has reminded me often)

So, I went with battery life, again, because a dead phone can have any hardware or software, and still be useless.

Well the D Quad was going to be a great phone with that 2600mAh battery, even if it does suffer by being embedded, but the numerous delays by Huawei releasing it has left them humiliated, releasing with the outdated ICS (note, it still only just started shipping in it's homeland of China in the last two weeks!)

Battery life is king, when will the leading OEMs learn? However a sweet spot must be found, as a 4000mAh battery would also take a long time to charge aswell as last a long time, I think maybe 3000mAh on a quad core, 720p phone under 4.6inch could be the best bet, and 3500mAh for oversize phones like the S3.

Starting in 2005, the camera's megapixel count became the measure of how modern and high-end a phone was, but in the last year this has changed and it's now the version of Android that a phone launches with, that now reveals a phone's true colors, there's no hiding it.

I know there's not particularly anything wrong with buying a phone with the previous version of android, the phone will work fine, but there's always that feeling of inadequacy, like going to a car dealership and buying the previous year's model from the main area when the new one is on the turntable.

By the sounds of things, Android 4.2 isn't far off, and I find that these somewhat 'regular' updates are socially eating the previous version with Formula 1-like ferocious hunger. It's crazy.

Battery life and some kind of removable storage (microSDHC/XC) are paramount. The "Cloud" is all nice and everything except when you're on a transoceanic flight or in a subway tunnel or you're in a foreign country with no data plan, or worse still, your home data plan limits you to 2GB or less unless you want to get a**-raped by overage charges. Yeah, that big HD screen and awesome movie sound is nice until you don't have enough storage for any movies along with those 2GB+ games and other apps that are becoming so popular. The "cloud" just isn't practical, yet. One day, maybe, but that day isn't here, yet.

It would be wonderful to get a Nexus phone that has removable storage, so could enjoy the "cloudless" life and be assured of timely updates. But, it seems like Google is abandoning those of us who enjoy that freedom and instead they want to tie people down like Apple. Maybe now that the new Windows Phones are including external storage, I should investigate the WP8 models coming out.

I'm tired of buying an HTC phone and tablet only to have it abandoned a year later on an old and buggy OS and no updates. If Nexus won't fit my needs, I'll have to look elsewhere other than Android.

Here is my 1st post, so I'll try not to take long. I still have a JB iphone 4 so I have never had the luxury of the options this poll asks, but I am going buy an Android device in the next few weeks. I can say for sure what I am looking for. I've waited for Apple to release a larger screen phone for over 2 years now, & I gotta say I'm not impressed w/the iP5. SD card slots, Battery life, & LTE are nice, but most high end phones have these. Even w/o an SD card you can function, but screen size has been what attracted me to Android devices.

To me it's more about future-proofing which means I favor RAM & CPU speeds. Will my phone still run fast after 2 years worth of usage, tweaks, and software upgrades? Right now I'm leaning towards just getting the Note 2. If you can get past the size, which I can, it has everything a superphone should have. RAM, CPU, Screen Size, Newest Android Version, LTE, Battery Life, & hopefully an SD Card slot when it gets to AT&T. Unless I see something better before Christmas, I will be joining the Android fan club via the Note 2.

Its clear why people want to see HTC make the next android phone.

Their One lineup is easily the most thoughtfully engineered, designed and crafted of Android phones.

And honestly, for my NEXT phone, the main thing I want is actually nice aesthetics. Next to that would be battery life, of course. Phones should last 2-3 days easily with moderate usage. We're almost there, of course.

Totally battery life, motorola has it right with the razr maxx, I almost want to go to verilzon for it. Gs3 has decent battery life but really no reason they couldnt up it a bit, im sick of the phones having just barely enough life for a day of moderate use.

That's an awfully loaded question Jerry...
It's kind of hard to say which is the most important feature if the most important thing (for me) is the overall real world performance which would put battery, internal specs, and screen as a mix.

I don't really care about external storage as much as I care about having a decent amount of storage. 16G is simply not sufficient to carry as much music and pictures as I want to have at hand.

I don't care for Google's push to the cloud by skimping on storage.

I'd rather pay a few extra dollars upfront than have to shell it out to cellular carriers just do I can constantly download my music.

Hell, I'd like to see storage increase to the point that I can load my music collection in a higher quality format (then I'll be saying better audio hardware is a big requirement ;) ).

give me a reasonably spec'd with a decent camera and battery life with strong dev support and im happy. build quality is important to but not required to be super decked out.

I'm surprised Android Version scoring so high - it's the one thing you can remedy yourself - 10 minutes of googling and 20 minutes of flashing and you're on your way.

Battery Life is a good one, but a pretty hopeless one to *actually* base your purchase on, as it's highly variable and subject to endless BS and obfuscation by sales material.

All in all, my priorities are pretty close to the reverse of the rank of priorities chosen so far.