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The Year of Android
The most remarkable and controversial products of the year based on Android: best flagship, return of the year and the most weird solution among “robots″.
We will soon prepare the end of the year review with the most interesting products of the past 12 months according to mobile-review.com. In this small article I would like to do the same for Android. Everything you read here is my subjective opinion supported by the experience of use and market analysis.
Samsung Galaxy S II
Average price: $695
Samsung Galaxy S II was unveiled at Mobile World Congress 2011 in Barcelona and hit the shelves in April. It was positioned as the flagship from the very outset, but even the wildest optimism of company’s managers was not misplaced. We can remember that the original Samsung Galaxy S sold well too, but SGS II became a cult Android smartphone by the end of the year. Samsung managed to create an ideal smartphone at the time and rival models started appearing only in summer. Even now it stays the most advanced Android smartphone if you look at all features together.
When the third incarnation of Galaxy appears the current flagship will just move down to the mid price segment and will stay popular as a preowned solution.
LG Optimus 2X
Average price: $695
LG was the first to show a dual core Android solution. Optimus 2X was unveiled at the end of 2010 prior to Mobile World Congress, where the majority of key models are traditionally introduced for the first time. That is why we forgot the LG model as it was overshadowed by the flagship from Samsung and the rest of the pack. Besides some of the parameters in LG Optimus 2X turned out to be good on paper and less impressive in real life. It had a standard 8 MP matrix, which offered low quality pictures even if compared with HTC models of that period, which were considered to be weak in this respect.
The smartphone was too cumbersome, had bland design and lacked special features in software. After one month LG Optimus 2X was fast forgotten.
Average price: $610
Frankly speaking I waited for this phone impatiently and hoped that HTC could dethrone Samsung Galaxy S II. When it became available I used this smartphone as the main handset of mine. Moreover, I liked Sensation more than SGS II due to the proprietary Sense interface offering convenience of operation from the box. HTC tried to make its flagship as original as they could, but they still managed to fix previous errors. HTC Sensation received a curved glass, qHD screen and an improved camera, which was short of SGS II and Sony Ericsson Arc, but outperformed other Android rivals. The strongest point of the model remained HTC Sense.
On the downside we have to mention short operation time. Even “stingy″ users ran out of steam by the end of the day, while I could use it actively only for 3-4 hours, which is too bad. I think HTC Sensation had a chance to become number one on arrival only if it surpassed SGS II in all respects, but it did not happen. Sensation is only a high quality smartphone, but it is not as iconic as SGS II, which is bad for the flagship. An attempt of HTC to go back to the top with Sensation was not quite successful.
Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play
Average price: $500
During the presentation of SE XPERIA Play in Barcelona at the beginning of the year the company’s representatives promised a lot and showed colorful slides with available and planned games associated with key developers in the area. Unfortunately all loud promises were in vain as the launched product happened to be not prepared for the market. SE XPERIA Play was a good solution on the drawing board: good gaming base, original PlayStation games and the side slider form factor with buttons for gaming! It was stunning! Sadly, in reality we ended up with a large and huge smartphone with dim screen even for the in-room operation. Technical characteristics happened to be not impressive and the price tag was excessive at the time of the launch.
Technically outdated smartphone did not become popular as you can play games on any “robot″ and no one wanted to pay so much.
Return of the Year
Sony Ericsson Arc
Average price: $520
In this category I would like to mention two models. The first one is Sony Ericsson Arc. After the failure of XPERIA X10 the company needed a bug-free handset and SE Arc filled the bill perfectly well. In terms of parameters the model cannot compete with SGS II and HTC Sensation, but it has its strong points. Arc is beautiful, unusual and graceful against the backdrop of other “robots″. The model is also decent in the multimedia section and its 8 MP camera is among the best on Android. The model cannot be considered a flagship solution as it was catching up from the very beginning, but it did the trick. A bit of trust returned to the brand and Sony must continue moving in the same direction when unveiling the new flagship Nozomi.
Motorola RAZR XT910
Average price: $520
Strangely, but many companies go back to the roots when it is not necessary or fail to exploit the same idea in crucial times. The same happened to Motorola, which achieved success with RAZR and kept on making its copies instead of expanding the portfolio. The opposite is happening with HTC. They have many useful design ideas (e.g. HTC Touch) under the belt, but the manufacturer cannot find inspiration in its classical solutions and produces carbon copies.
Motorola RAZR XT910 is a good answer to criticism, because it embodies the traditional Motorola design. There are some questions about build and durability, but this handset has its own face, which is so rare these days. The market is calling for similar models.
The Golden Middle
HTC Desire S
Average price: $460
Frankly speaking we had several contenders in the running and as far as it was difficult to choose I will tell you about the phone I liked personally very much. I think HTC managed to create a strong mid-priced smartphone and when its price went down after the launch it became even more attractive. The metal body, high quality screen, decent camera, nice design, good characteristics and HTC Sense to crown it all turned Desire S into a good choice for those looking for a basic, quality built and stable Android smartphone.
LG Optimus Black
Average price: $420
If in the top segment LG had not much success this year in the mid priced segment the company did well courtesy of Black. I cannot tell you the sales figures, but LG Optimus Black offers one of the best value for money in 2011 if you are looking for Android. A 4″ IPS screen (800x480), 1 GHz processor, 512 MB of RAM, simple design, low weight and compact dimensions cost only $420.
The Most Controversial Smartphone
Samsung Galaxy Note
Average price: $830
Note from Samsung was the only model deserving this accolade. A crossbreed between smartphones and tablets bigger than SGS II and smaller than any tablet attracted attention of geeks and technology buffs immediately after the announcement. Note has the same parameters as SGS II, but has a larger 5.3″ screen of 800x1280 and a special pen for drawing on screen. Inside you find appropriate software. One advantage of Note is a 2500 mÀh to run 24 hours even in active mode. Acer had to achieve the same result with Iconia Smart announced at the start of the year, but Samsung was the first and deserves the title for the most controversial design.
New Kid of the Block
The revelation of the year is the start of Huawei in the Android segment. The networks manufacturer now deals in the same vein as Acer, even though the company denies that. Look at characteristics and prices of new Huawei gadgets to understand what I mean. This year the company developed several models with Shell 3D and then seemingly moved to their own interface. Huawei Vision and Honor have decent features, excellent build and fine looks (despite borrowings from earlier hits, as Vision, for example, copies HTC Legend). The price tag is below $450 and Huawei can compete in the segment today. If they keep on working the company may become a serious player in the market next year.
Best Accessible Smartphone
Sony Ericsson XPERIA mini
Average price: $275
Last year we had LG Optimus One reigning supreme among inexpensive Android models, but today we have no clear front runner. There are phones from HTC, Samsung and LG, which are all similar and lack individuality. Sony Ericsson XPERIA mini of the last generation has plenty of character. A 3″ smartphone looks bulky, but compact, which attracts consumers lost in the ocean of similar models. It does not offer the best value for money, but it is more original than the rest and becomes our best Android budget smartphone.
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Published 28 December 2011
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