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
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.
Honorable Mention for O2 - 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.
Honorable Mention for Three - Sony Ericsson 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
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.
Best phone on Orange and T-Mobile UK - HTC 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.
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.