Taylor's Top 5 Android smartphones (September 2011)

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: September 16, 2011

Making top smartphones lists for you guys is a futile endeavor, but we do it anyway, because we care. I made my last top five list in August just in time for Back to School, and in just a short few weeks, everything has completely changed. Devices that have been rumored to be coming for ages have finally landed, inevitably pushing others into oblivion.

Since I got my top five upcoming phones out of the way earlier this week, I thought I would make something a little more concrete to wrap up the week. I'm sure this will change in the next few days ... or even hours, but hey, at least I tried.

Here are my top five Android smartphones for September 2011:

 

1. Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch (Sprint)

The Galaxy S II has been a major hit since it launched overseas several months ago, and rightly so. The Epic 4G Touch is the Sprint-specific version of the Galaxy S II, which ships with a 4.5-inch Super AMOLED Plus display, 1.2GHz dual-core Exynos processor, 1,800 mAh battery, WiMAX connectivity, 16GB built-in memory and 1GB RAM. On top of that, it ships with Android 2.3.4 underneath the latest version of Samsung's custom UI, TouchWiz 4.0.

I don't normally like ranking a phone if I've never had some hands-on time with it, but I will make an exception for the Epic 4G Touch, solely because I have had some hands-on with a Galaxy S II, and this is also a Galaxy S II with a different chassis and slightly different specs. The beautiful Super AMOLED Plus display in addition to the 1.2GHz Exynos processor and TouchWiz 4.0 – which I surprisingly like – is enough to give the Epic 4G Touch a leg-up on the competition. If you are a Sprint customer on the market for a new phone, the Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch is officially available today for $199 with a two-year agreement. If you're on AT&T or T-Mobile, a similar Galaxy S II variant is on its way soon.

 

2. HTC Sensation 4G (T-Mobile)

It's inevitable, I will always get flamed for picking one HTC device over another. But coming in second this time around is the HTC Sensation 4G. The Sensation launched back in June and ships with a 4.3-inch qHD S-LCD display (540 by 960 pixel resolution, 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 768 MB RAM, and an 8-megapixel camera with 1080P video recording capabilities. The hardware is arguably some of the nicest on the market and brings back a touch of the much-loved design featured in the Nexus One.

The HTC Sensation 4G ships with the latest version of Android and Sense 3.0. Despite being equipped with a dual-core processor and sufficient RAM, it is still the victim of intermittent lag that simply should not be there. If you're on T-Mobile and can't wait it out for the Galaxy S II variant to come your way, my vote goes to the Sensation 4G, which will set you back $199.99 with a two-year agreement. Sprint customers, also check out the similar EVO 3D, that is, if you haven't already picked up an Epic 4G Touch.

 

3. Motorola DROID Bionic (Verizon Wireless)

The DROID Bionic was initially announced back at CES in January this year. Since then, it has been put through a redesigned, multiple delays, a cancellation and it was re-announced. It also had the strangest launch of any phone to date. Nonetheless, it's here and bringing quite a punch. It comes with a 4.3-inch qHD display, 1GHz TI OMAP dual-core processor, 8-megapixel camera (with 1080p video), 1GB RAM, 16GB built-in memory and LTE connectivity. Like most phones shipping now, the Bionic ships with Gingerbread, but it is lightly skinned with Motorola Applications Platform.

The form factor of the Bionic is somewhere between the DROID X2 and DROID 3, which makes you wonder why Motorola released all three of these phones on Verizon so close together. Nonetheless, the Bionic is speedy and easily outperforms the rest of the current crop of LTE phones with its dual-core processor. Unfortunately, if you're not a fan of PenTile Matrix style displays, the Bionic may not be for you. The major downside is price; this particular device will set you back $299.99 with a two-year contract. If you are on Sprint, check out Bionic's next of kin, the Photon 4G.

 

4. Motorola DROID 3 (Verizon Wireless)

I'm not much on slide-out QWERTY phones, but if I were to own one, it would be the Motorola DROID 3. Hands down. With a 1GHz TI OMAP dual-core processor, 4-inch qHD TFT display, 8-megapixel camera, 512MB RAM and a glorious 5-row QWERTY, the DROID 3 has landed itself in the number four spot in my top five Android phones.

The one hitch to the DROID 3 is the display. Although it touts a higher resolution, the PenTile Matrix layout of the subpixels leads to some graininess at times. The display is super bright and the color reproduction is spot on, but the pixelation is definitely noticeable at times. That said, the standby time of the battery life was mind-blowing and I can't say I ever encountered any lag in my time with it. The DROID 3 sells for $199.99 with a two-year agreement, an might be a decent substitute if you don't want to pay $299.99 for the Bionic, if you don't mind the added bulk.

 

5. Google Nexus S (4G) by Samsung (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile)

The Nexus S is just one device I can't let go of. I am a huge advocate of stock Android, and Nexus devices simply do it best. The Nexus S originally launched in December of 2010 and carries a rather under-powered spec sheet in comparison to the current competition. It is packing a 1GHz Hummingbird processor, a 4-inch Super AMOLED contoured display, a 5-megapixel camera, NFC and 512MB RAM.

Normally a phone with specifications like these would be quickly buried by bigger, more powerful phones. But Nexus devices aren't so easily forgotten. They are developer devices and are very easily hacked. If you are a ROM flashing addict, you should definitely try a Nexus phone. Another Nexus is scheduled to arrive in the coming months, but if you can't wait, the Nexus S is available in 3G variants for T-Mobile and AT&T and can be purchased in a WiMAX version for Sprint.