2012 has been a great year for Android and technology as a whole. It was the dawn of the quad core, the 720p HD display (and now even the 1080p display), and the reinvention of Android. Despite Ice Cream Sandwich being released in late 2011, it didn’t catch on until manufacturers started pushing out updates to devices that were actually popular (no offense, Galaxy Nexus, we all love you). It is the year Android became universally usable, achieving good looks along the way.
But Android would get nowhere without the dedication of manufacturers releasing their best and newest devices. In this post, I will be naming my top five Android devices of the year.
5. LG Optimus G
The LG Optimus G was one of the first devices that was powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad core processor. This made it one of the most powerful devices at its launch, and truly marked a comeback for LG. They were never a big player in the Android game, but this device gave LG the boost it needed to really compete.
Aside from the powerful processor, you get a gorgeous 4.7″ 768×1280 True HP IPS display, 2GB of RAM, a 13 or 8MP camera (depending on the model), a 2,100 mAh battery, and 16/32GB of storage (with the 16GB AT&T model having a microSD card slot). You get one hell of a phone.
LG didn’t stop there. They also put a lot of care into the aesthetics of the device. The back has a very interesting pattern, reflecting dots of light at certain angles while otherwise remaining black. It makes the phone look gorgeous. Of course, the two sheets of glass front and back also make it ridiculously fragile, so consider that. But it really shows LG is stepping up their game, and we can use another competitor in the market.
4. HTC DROID DNA
HTC hasn’t been doing well in the market recently, and while they make good phones, they no longer possess the popularity with the regular crowd. However, we have to give points to innovation. The HTC DROID DNA is a powerhouse in general, but the best part of this device is definitely the 5 inch S-LCD3 display, which boasts an astounding 1080×1920 resolution. This gives it a pixel density of 441 pixels per inch, blowing any other display out of the water and putting the Retina display to shame.
Is this the phone everyone will swarm after? With lack of advertising and a unified brand image for HTC, probably not. But this is definitely the start of a new era of displays, where 720p will soon be relegated mainly to mid end devices. With rumors of the Galaxy S IV being 1080p and many others already showcasing their 1080p displays, we are about to see a big change, and HTC is pioneering it.
On top of the gorgeous display, you also get a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad core processor at 1.5 GHz, an 8MP camera, a 2020 mAh battery, and 2GB of RAM. It’s a beast of a device and would do anyone well, if they are willing to live with Sense 4+ on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.
3. Samsung Galaxy Note II
The Galaxy Note II is a revolution in its own way. There were times where big phones were universally hated. The HTC EVO 4G was pushing the limit at 4.3″ and the Dell Streak was an absolute failure at 5″, deemed far too large for anyone but the clinically insane. When the Galaxy Note debuted, most phones were no larger than 4.5″. Suddenly, a 5.3″ device comes out, and most people said it was doomed to fail. Surprisingly, it was one of the biggest success stories of 2011.
With a massive HD display and an innovative stylus they call the S Pen, it made smartphones creep closer to the world of personal computers. With Samsung updating the Note with a Premium Suite, the S Pen became a lot more useful. For many people, it was an integral part of using the device.
The Galaxy Note II bumped the size up to 5.5″ while making the device easier to handle. With a new S Pen, a ton of new features, and an incredibly powerful Exynos quad core processor, it made tasks usually reserved for computers easily done on a mobile device. And with Samsung’s massive advertising campaign, the Note II sold like crazy. The Note series has single handedly brought the world into an era of thinking “larger is better.” Is that a good thing? That’s completely opinion based. But no matter your opinion, it’s impressive and changed the world of smartphones.
2. Google Nexus 4
The Google Nexus 4 is, at first glance, an LG Optimus G with an 8MP camera (unlike the Sprint Optimus G), no microSD card slot (unlike the AT&T Optimus G), and no LTE. However, it’s really much more than that. It’s a Nexus device, so it offers a few benefits you won’t get from an Optimus G. For starters, it’s running the newest version of Android, 4.1.2. And you can be sure it’ll always get the newest updates first, staying current for far longer than most devices could dream of.
You also get a phone that is fully unlockable. Once the bootloader is unlocked with a simple command, you can do anything you please with it. That’s what Nexus devices are for. Absolute freedom from manufacturer restrictions and the evil of carriers. However, even with those things in mind, you still get a phone that can be compared to any other phone on the market. Is it one of the best? Yes. Is it anything special? Aside from stock Android, no.
What makes it so special and such a game changer is the price. At only $300 for the base 8GB model, it costs less than half what its competition costs off contract. It also comes fully unlocked for any GSM carrier.
When you want to go pre-paid, you either have to buy a really bad phone or bring your own. It’ll pay for itself eventually, since you’ll be paying much less for service, but making that $700 investment is difficult. The Nexus 4 changes that. With no reliance on the carriers and a cheap price for those who want to leave said carriers, it makes going prepaid so much easier.
Even if you don’t go prepaid, you still get a phone that a carrier will never be able to alter. No one can stop you from doing what you want with it, and that is the magic of a Nexus device. You can’t get that anywhere else.
1. Samsung Galaxy S III
This one is fairly obvious. Not everyone will agree this is the best Android phone on the market, and even I think there could be better options. However, this is without a doubt the most influential Android device of 2012. It sold like crazy, it boosted Samsung to the top of all smartphone and even overall phone sales, and it solidified Samsung as a household brand. It is the most popular Android device ever released.
There is no denying that every phone, when not trying to best the iPhone, was trying to best the Galaxy S III. HTC took the liberty of making a whole series of comparison charts between its One X and the S III, as did Motorola. The smartphone market is no longer a war between iOS and Android; in terms of market share, Android has won. It is now a war between manufacturers, and Samsung is on top.
When you walk outside in a crowded city, what do you see? A sea of iPhones and Galaxy S IIIs. When you ask someone if they’ve heard of the Galaxy S III, people will almost always say yes. The same cannot be said for the One X, Nexus 4, or Optimus G. The Galaxy S III has reached a fame never known by any Android device, and it has done wonders for the Android world.
It also managed to get on all four of the major US carriers and countless smaller ones, penetrating every little market it could, whether it be international, national, or regional.
Through all that fame, you get a truly competent device. With a brilliant (if not oversaturated and PenTile) 4.8″ HD Super AMOLED display with a 720p resolution, a dual core processor in the US and a quad core Exynos everywhere else, and an amazing 8MP camera, you get some great specs. Throw in a removable battery at a beefy 2,100 mAh, a microSD card slot, and the many features of Samsung’s TouchWiz UX, and you get a phone that’s hard to beat to this day. Samsung did an incredible job on the S III, and through all its flaws, it’s my number one Android device of 2012.
2012 has been the biggest year for Android thus far, as it gained a gorgeous UI overhaul, some amazing success stories, and recognition from the mainstream. Android is no longer viewed as the hacker haven, it is now a consumer OS. Android is seeing massive success, and we couldn’t be happier. Here’s to a great 2013, and may the consumers always win.