Most of the world beyond the comfortable, unified land of the iPhone belongs to the vast and fragmented kingdom of Google’s Android Operating System. It’s the world’s most popular OS, but is spread across a wide expanse of brands; HTC, Samsung, Motorola and Sony, to name a few). Furthermore, its open-source nature means that most manufacturers tweak Android to reflect their individuality as a brand, making it a bit of a mobile jungle.
While it may be scary at first, Android’s popularity is justfied. Its integration with Google software, customisability and rapidly-growing app store make it a great option for those looking to branch out into the smartphone market.
Here’s a list of top 10 smartphones to choose from in 2012. It features a variety of handsets – some of which are only coming out later in the year – which exemplify Android at its finest.
HTC One X
This Quad-Core beast marks HTC’s return to form. The flagship phone in HTC’s new ‘One’ series, this is the first Quad-Core (1.5Ghz Nvidia Tegra) phone to have hit the market.
Running on Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) and HTC Sense 4.0, the One X features 32GB of onboard memory, a powerful 8MP camera and a huge 4.7″ Super AMOLED screen.
For the musically-inclined, this phone also contains Beats Audio technology, which enhances sound quality and includes music-specific features that make it double as the best Android-based music player.
Samsung Galaxy S2
With the S3 about to be unleashed on the world, the Galaxy S2‘s time in the limelight may have passed, but it will still see out 2012 as one of the best smartphones out there.
The S2′s Dual-Core 1.2GHz Cortex processor is still the fastest of its kind, and the phone is upgradable to the illustrious Ice Cream Sandwich. It has options of 16GB or 32GB onboard memory, which can be further expanded by another 32GB via microSD, so you’re never going to be short on space.
The phone’s connectivity with other devices, pretty 4.3″ screen and decreasing value in the run-up to its successor’s release make this a smooth and powerful way to begin your relationship with Android.
Motorola RAZR Maxx
Motorola may not be the most fashionable phone manufacturer at the moment, but in terms of raw physical practicality, the RAZR Maxx is right up there.
Featuring a hefty 4.3″ Super AMOLED screen, an 8MP camera and a speedy 1.2GHz Dual-Core processor, the MAXX comes out well on the spec sheet.
But where this phone really shines is its longevity, as it houses an unprecedented 3300 mAh battery. This translates to a nearly 18-hour talking time and 607 hours of standby time. The RAZR Maxx is due out in the UK in mid-May.
Samsung Galaxy S3
The Galaxy S3 is the most talked-about non-iPhone phone in the world, and the hype is looking increasingly justified.
Coming pre-loaded with Android 4.0 ICS, featuring a super-fast 1.4GHz Exynos 4 processor, which has been touted as offering a ‘PC-like experience’ on your phone. What’s more, its built on a new technology that means its battery will last about 20% longer than that of its predecessor, the Galaxy S2.
The Galaxy S3 is looking set to be officially unveiled on May 3rd, with a release expected later in the summer.
LG Optimus 4X HD
LG‘s upcoming flagship phone is looking set to lock horns with the HTC One X in many ways. Featuring the same Tegra 3 1.5Ghz quad-core processor, huge 4.7″ screen, 8MP camera and 1GB of RAM, it’s pretty much a spitting image of the One X. It’s even recently been seen in a white chassis, just like the One X!
The key difference in the phones is the fact that LG have more or less left the default Google interface untouched, while HTC have popped their Sense UI over it. The other discernible difference is that the Optimus has slightly more memory capacity.
The Optimus 4X HD is due to come out in June, so if you’re set on a quad-core phone you might want to wait and see how this phone pans out before committing.
HTC Wildfire S
This plucky little gnome of a phone has made it onto our second Top 10 list in a row, also featuring in last week’s Top 10 Budget smartphones list.
It may not be as glamorous as other phones on the list, but it’s a great starting point for those on a budget looking to ease themselves into the Android world.
Into its small shell, the Wildfire S squeezes in a 600MHz processor, 5MP and up to 32GB of microSD memory. It may only run on Android Gingerbread, so you won’t get all the joys of ICS, but at £130 you don’t have to worry about financial overcommitment.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S
Sony haven’t messed around too much with the Android OS, which is highly customisable and easy to use. What’s more, an update to ICS is said to be just around the corner.
Orange Monte Carlo
This phone – which also goes by the non-Orange branded name of ZTE Skate – is the second budget Android phone to make it onto this list. Running on a powerful-for-the-price 800MHz processor and the highly respectable Android 2.3 Gingerbread, this is for the more frugal phone buyer.
It may not have the prettiest screen in the world, featuring 4.3″ of lowly 480 x 800 ugliness, but Orange has knocked it up with some handy features such as Signal Boost, Orange Wednesday and Orange Film To Go, entitling you to a free iTunes movie every Thursday.
HTC Sensation XE
With HTC’s One series inheriting the flagship throne from Sensation, it’s easy to forget just what a good handset the Sensation XE is.
Featuring a Dual-Core 1.5GHz Snapdragon processor, the XE builds on its predecessor by including Beats Audio technology, with the high-end headphones coming in-b0x. It also has a slightly longer battery life and ships with a 16GB micro SD card.
The Sensation range may not have marked the glory days of HTC, with them reporting poor sales figures last year, but this is still a top handset that has been deemed worthy of receiving the ICS update.
Google Nexus S
Google are quite a modest bunch really, as shown by the fact that this is one of the few phones which is branded with their name. One of the first phones made specifically for Android 2.3 Gingerbread, this handset is now upgradeable to ICS.
It’s a decidedly mid-range phone, feature a 1GHz processor, 5MP camera and 16GB of onboard memory (non-expandable), but will certainly do the job for those who want to tread carefully in the Android kingdom.
This is a great phone for people who don’t want to faff around with updates, as Google will automatically take care of them for you. If you want Android just as its makers intended, then this is it. At a reasonable price too.