If you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past few years, chances are that you’re (a) in a great deal of pain right now, and (b) completely oblivious to the ridiculous popularity of Google-owned mobile OS, Android.
When choosing a new smartphone, you’ve essentially got three choices: the iPhone, a BlackBerry, or one of the hundreds of phones that adopts Android as its operating system. Oh, and there’s also Windows Phone 7. (Sorry, Microsoft.) In this guide we’ll focus on the world of Android, specifically what’s new, what’s coming soon, what to buy, and what to avoid.
Android - a quick overview
Since its first appearance around two-and-a-half years ago, Android has released several updates with new features and general performance improvements. The downside is that many users are now scattered across different versions. That’s referred to as “fragmentation”. One of things to be aware of is which version of Android your potential new handset rocks, and if it’ll be catered for in future. You don’t want to get left behind.
You can download apps for your Android phone from the Android Market. It’s currently still playing catch-up with the App Store, with around 200,000 apps compared to Apple’s 300,000. Still, that’s a heck of a lot of apps, and the recent announcement of in-app billing means we’ll inevitably see a flood of new content.
Android was plagued by malware issues recently, but you shouldn’t have anything to worry about if you play safe. Don’t download anything dodgy, and stick to the official Android Market. Oh, and there’s also Amazon’s spanking new Android Appstore. Some apps are cheaper on there, and they have a daily free app.
We’re in a bit of a transitional phase here, where a whole host of new Android handsets have been announced but haven’t seen the light of day yet. Well, not in the UK anyway. One of the few to hit shelves in recent months is the:
HTC Incredible S (full specs) – this handset from the Taiwanese manufacturer will set you back around £420. It has a meaty 4in touchscreen, 8MP camera on the back and 1.3MP on the front. Not cheap, so you might want to hold off for one of the new dual-core Android smartphones instead.
What’s coming soon?
There are tons of new Android phones on the horizon. Let’s crack on.
HTC Desire S (full specs) – a modest upgrade for the massively popular HTC Desire. It basically chucks in a front-facing camera and sits in a nice new aluminium shell. It’s also thinner and lighter.
Expected: early April
Samsung Galaxy S II (full specs) - one of the new dual-core Android phones, the Samsung Galaxy S II claimed to be the thinnest smartphone in the world when it was announced. That may no longer be the case, but it still boasts impressive specs, including a 4.3in touchscreen, 8MP camera and 2MP front-facing for video calls.
Expected: late April/early May
Price: £515 (16GB), £660 (32GB)
Motorola Atrix (full specs) - this bad boy is already out in the States, and is another dual-core affair. It claims – or at least claimed – to be “the world’s most powerful smartphone”, and has 1GB of RAM allowing smooth multitasking action. We think the Motorola Atrix's laptop dock looks pretty cool too.
LG Optimus 3D (full specs) - ok, we’re not so keen on 3D, but this phone is still making waves, and is the first phone to feature autostereoscopic – that’s “glasses free” – 3D. The phone uses twin cameras on the back to capture photos and video in 3D, and also boasts 3D gaming.
Budget Android phones
We could hardly leave an Android buying guide without mentioning the Orange San Francisco. It's available for less than £100, and comes highly recommended. If you fancy an Android phone and can't stretch to any of the above guys, check out the good old San Fran.