We recently brought you our guides to our favorite smartphones on AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile and now it’s time to address another question we’ve been asked recently: What are the best Android phones available now? That’s a tough question to answer, primarily because devices can vary depending on the carrier or country each is released in. The unlocked Galaxy Nexus, for example, doesn’t support 4G LTE data connectivity as it does on Verizon Wireless and Sprint. And the U.S. Galaxy S III doesn’t come with a quad-core processor but does offer 4G LTE support on several carriers.
If we were to take the above differences into account, we’d need to create a list that was dozens of phones long and included several models of the Galaxy S III, the One X, the Galaxy Nexus and so on. So, taking each phone from a top-level view, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite Android smartphones currently available in the United States. You may agree or disagree — that’s fine — but these are the five Android phones we’d choose from if we were on the market to buy a new phone today.
1. Samsung Galaxy S III
One of the Galaxy S III’s strongest selling points is just that: It’s on dozens of carriers around the world and on five major carriers in the United States, including the four largest ones. That alone makes it an easy recommendation, but so do its stellar hardware specs. The Galaxy S III packs a super fast Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor, a beautiful 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED screen, 16GB or 32GB of storage (although 64GB models are said to be on the way), expandable storage through a microSD card slot, 4G LTE support (and HSPA+ 42Mbps support on T-Mobile USA), an impressive 8-megapixel camera and a long lasting 2,100mAh battery. It’s also packed to the gills with Samsung’s custom software features, including Buddy Share, while allows you and several friends to link up, snap photos and share an album. The phone runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, not Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, but we’re still head over heels for it.
2. HTC One X
The HTC One X is the Galaxy S III’s stiffest competition. It offers several similar features, is available on Sprint and AT&T, and has an incredible industrial design that’s sure to leave any smartphone buyer drooling. The U.S. iteration of the One X packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor, 4G LTE support on Sprint and AT&T, a super crisp and bright 4.7-inch display with a 1280 x 720 HD resolution, 16GB of internal storage and a good 8-megapixel camera. Its 1,800mAh battery is bested by the 2,100mAh pack in the Galaxy S III, and we prefer Samsung’s removable battery and expandable storage to the locked-down design of the One X. Still, you’ll find other amazing features onboard, such as HTC’s custom Sense 4 user interface and Beats Audio support.
3. Samsung Galaxy Nexus
How can you not love the Galaxy Nexus? It was the first phone to launch with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and now it’s the first phone that will receive Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. It’s only available from Verizon Wireless and Sprint stores (although you can pick up international models for support on other carriers), but those operators have yet to release Jelly Bean. It’s affordable at just $149.99 with a new two-year contract and still offers relevant hardware specs including a dual-core 1.2GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, a 4.65-inch HD Super AMOLED screen and a 5-megapixel camera. If you want the latest operating system from Google, this is your best bet right now.
4. Motorola DROID RAZR MAXX
The Motorola DROID RAZR MAXX earns a special spot on this list because it lasts longer than the Energizer Bunny. Seriously. It packs an insanely huge 3,300mAh battery — larger than any other battery in any other smartphone on the market — that’s rated for up to 21.5 hours of talk time. It also sports an 8-megapixel camera capable of recording 1080p video, support for Verizon’s 4G LTE data network, a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED display with a relatively low 940 x 540-pixel resolution, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of storage and a dual-core processor clocked at 1.2GHz. It might not be the most powerful smartphone out there, but we guarantee it will last longer than any other phone on this list.
5. Samsung Galaxy Note
Ah, the Galaxy Note. It’s massive and fat and so lovable that it holds a very dear place in our hearts. Kind of like the chubby cat at your grandma’s house. It just received Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, so you’ll probably have to wait a while for Jelly Bean to land (if it ever does), but it packs unique software and an S Pen that allows you to take notes and cheat in Draw Something. Plus, it offers a long lasting 2,500mAh battery, an 8-megapixel camera, a huge 5.3-inch HD Super AMOLED display with a 1280 x 800-pixel resolution for tablet-like gaming and media consumption, a 1.5GHz processor and support for AT&T’s 4G LTE network. It comes packed with 16GB of storage but you can easily expand that using the microSD card slot. You may look a little funny holding this up to your face to place phone calls but… go big or go home, right?