As 2012 draws to a close, it's the perfect time for us to refresh our 10 best Android phones list. Which phone donned with Google’s operating system would we recommend above all others right now? Check out the list below and let us know if you agree - or if there's anything we've missed.
1. Samsung Galaxy S3 - "Phone of the year"
Winner of the Recombu award for Smartphone of the Year 2012, the Samsung Galaxy S3 retains its top spot in our Android top ten. Its power, its peculiarities, its poise - it's packed to the brim. Not only does it offer Samsung's quad-core Exynos processor and a 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED screen, but Samsung has loaded it with sensors and software that really help it stand out from the crowd.
Some of these features are a bit gimmicky like Smart Stay, but others are positively brilliant, becoming second nature in no time flat. If for example you're looking at a text message, simply placing the Samsung Galaxy S3 to your ear will dial through to whoever you're chatting to.
The phone also packs an impressive 2100 mAh battery, 8-megapixel camera and expandable memory. It isn't perfect, we aren't totally sold on the design, however as far as flagships go, the S3 hits the most checkpoints and lasts from morning to night.
2. Google Nexus 4 - “Draw-dropping value”
Sometimes a phone comes along and by virtue of a combination of enticing price, killer specifications and lovely aesthetics, it’s irresistible. One such handset is the Google Nexus 4 by LG. Yes, after an jaunt with Samsung, Google has paired with LG to create its latest Nexus phone and the result is the first premium Nexus handset we’ve seen since the HTC-made Nexus One.
The hardware impresses too - there’s a stunning 4.7-inch 720P IPS screen, Android 4.2 adds new features and underneath there's a quad-core Snapdragon processor ensuring performance is quick and the battery surpasses its predecessor.
Our biggest niggle is the lack of removable storage, but all is forgiven when you check out the price - you can pick up the 8GB Nexus 4 for just £239 from Google. The Google Nexus 4 comes highly recommended - if you can get your hands on one.
3. HTC One X+ - “A Class Act”
An updated version of the HTC One X, a phone we liked but never really loved, the HTC One X+ rectifies many of the originals shortcomings.
Starting with the rich matte black body, with red accents adding edge, the phone feels classier. The upgraded quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor and 1GB RAM ably handles everyday tasks and the upgraded battery means you’ll be able to use the phone until the end of the day.
Unchanged is the 4.7-inch Super LCD 2 display, with bright, bold colours and excellent viewing angles, overlayed with HTC Sense. On the back there's a great 8-megapixel camera and Beats Audio profiles are on-board too.
The HTC One X+ is the phone the HTC One X should have been and the best HTC Android smartphone available - arguably a more stylish offering than the Samsung Galaxy S3,
4: Samsung Galaxy Note 2 - "Noteworthy"
The Samsung Galaxy Note was a huge hit for Samsung, creating the ‘phablet’ category and its successor the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 arrived later this year.
Everything about this device is big. The quad-core processor delivers outstanding gaming performance, the 5.5-inch Super AMOLED screen is fantastic for movies and packs 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity, integrating with the S-Pen. Android Jelly Bean is now available too, sitting under Samsung’s TouchWiz UI.
The Note 2 isn’t for everyone, but if can handle the size and need the S-Pen, this is the device for you. As we said in our review: "Try it out, make sure it fits in your hand, in your pocket, in your life and then when you're as enamoured by it as we are, buy it."
5. Sony Xperia S - “Style and substance”
In an age of quad-core, Sony bucked the trend and released a dual-core flagship, the Sony Xperia S. Loaded with the highest pixel density screen on the market and a design nothing short of iconic, the Xperia S is one bold design risk that we feel has paid off in spades, packing both style and substance.
A 12-megapixel camera coupled with a physical two-stage camera button means the Sony Xperia S does a great job as a compact camera replacement or supplement. Delivering excellent detail levels, outdoor pictures look incredible with vibrant colours, great focusing and an inutitive UI. That said, drop the lights and noise handling isn’t quite as good as it could be, which when coupled with a relatively weak flash makes the Xperia S good, but not great in low light.
Controversially we've opted for the Sony Xperia S instead the newer Sony Xperia T. Aesthetically they are very different phones - while the Xperia S is angular, the Xperia T is curved - it's personal preference what you prefer. Both run ICS and will be getting an update to Jelly Bean. Both rock 1.5GHz Qualcomm processors, the Xperia T has the newer S4 chip, although battery performance on the Xperia S is better. The Xperia S has a smaller screen (4.3-inches to 4.55-inches), but is sharper as both rock a 720p resolution. The Xperia S has 32GB internal memory, but no expansion slot, to the Xperia T's expandable 16GB. With specs so close to call our final consideration is price - the Sony Xperia S is available for around £250, in comparison to £399 for the Xperia T.
6. Huawei Ascend G300 - “How much?”
The lowest end phone on the market is the Huawei Ascend G300, packing a 1GHz processor, a 4-inch WVGA display and a 5-megapixel autofocus camera, you might initially ask yourself - why is this low to mid-range phone in our top 5, let alone our top ten? Because. It costs just £100.
How much? You heard. £100 on pay as you go. Exclusive to Vodafone for the time being, the Huawei Ascend G300 ticks a lot more boxes than any other £100 phone does. A smooth UI, decent camera, expandable memory, ICS on the way in Q2, there’s every reason to pick on up, penny pincher or not.
7. Motorola RAZR MAXX - “Who wants to live forever?”
We liked the Motorola RAZR, it had solid performance and decent battery life, averaging out at about a day. The dual-core processor was snappy and the design sleek. Queue 2012 and the Motorola RAZR has had a reprise in the Motorola RAZR MAXX.
Also packing the same processor, 4.3-inch Super AMOLED qHD display and 8GB of usable memory with microSD expandability the Motorola RAZR MAXX gets its surname from the incredible 3300mAh battery on board. Giant however isn't the name of the game across the board, given that despite packing over double the battery power of most on the market, the RAZR MAXX measures less than 9mm thick. Add to that solid performance across the board and a decent 8-megapixel camera capable of full HD video and you’re onto a niche handset that offers a lot of bang for your buck.
Who wants to live forever? The Motorola RAZR MAXX, that’s who.
8. LG Optimus 4X HD - “Best not forgotten”
We first saw the LG Optimus 4X HD in January at CES, but it took nine months to come to market the UK, by then Samsung had released a certain Galaxy S3 handset and sadly the Optimus 4X HD found itself totally overshadowed. Which is a real shame because it’s a great phone.
A svelte 8.9mm, yes the design is safe, but it feels solid and there’s an 4.7-inch HD IPS display delivering bright colours and impressive viewing angles. Running Ice Cream Sandwich under the hood there's a powerful NVIDIA quad-core processor ensuring things never feel slow - in fact 3D games are mind blowing.
The LG Optimus 4X HD falls short in a couple of areas, the 8-megapixel camera is good rather than outstanding and you’ll need to carry a spare battery. But because the Optimus 4X HD lost ground to rivals, it’s now incredibly affordable - just £275 online - which has to be worth a punt.
9. Sony Xperia U - "Two cores? £150? Yes please."
Sony's Xperia U may not be the slickest or quickest. It may only pack a 3.5-inch screen, run Android Gingerbread and come with 8GB of non-expandable memory but that doesn't stop it from entering our top ten list thanks to its polished aesthetic, sharp display, and most notably price.
At £150, this is the Huawei Ascend G300 of dual-cores. It's fast enough to handle Sony's pretty weighty custom interface and at the same time power through music, movies and games with ease. What's more, it's customisable. The bottom portion below the transparent strip is swappable for either pink or yellow depending on which pack you go for, but the main event comes when the transparent strip below the screen lights up. The colour it shines is chosen by the picture you're looking at or the theme you're using.
Add to that a 5-megapixel camera with a great UI that offers generally decent results, a very sharp WVGA screen and a characteristic, charming look and feel and the verdict is simple: Good performance? Two cores? Sub two hundred pounds? Yes please.
10. ZTE Kis - “The game changer”
2012 has been the year of the budget smartphone - and we’re not talking cheap/poor quality here. We’re talking about well-specc’d phones offering a lot for very little, following the groundbreaking Huawei G300, Virgin Media exclusively launched the ZTE Kis, retailing for just £59 (plus £10 top-up).
Looking like a younger, cheaper HTC One V, the Kis has a 3.5-inch touchscreen, respectable 800Mhz processor, 3.2-megapixel camera and access to the Google Play store. At this prices there are compromises, so the resolution is low and it runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread and there’s no flash on the camera. But you won’t get a better phone for the price - in fact you could even get two.
Updated 4th Jan with Sony explanation