It’s around that time when publications are obliged to take a long hard look over the past year and ask: What were the best smartphones of 2011? Invariably, the resultant Top 5s will include the Samsung Galaxy S II and iPhone 4S, perhaps the Nokia N9 if they’re a particularly geeky lot, and maybe even a curveball in the form of the BlackBerry Bold Touch 9900.
Instead, I figured I’d compile each and every one of Mobot’s handset reviews from 2011 into one handy feature. Want to know what Dave thought of the Samsung Galaxy S II? Or what Emma said about the iPad 2? Read on!
Hyperlinks will take to you the full – and incredibly thorough – reviews.
Oh, and I’ve decided to simply go for chronological order. Makes sense, I reckon. Maybe I'll do a wee table at the end.
HTC HD7 (4/5)
Dave said: It’s an HTC handset but the hype is all about Windows, and if Microsoft is going to stay in the smartphone game this new OS really has to work. On this evidence, it certainly does, and WinPho 7 deserves its own place battling against Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, even if there’s still plenty of room for improvement.
The HTC HD7 handset basics all hit the mark too, with a strong 4.3in screen, decent camera, good social networking aspects and a whole hatful of extras. Overall, HTC's first Windows Phone 7 handset is a bit of a gem.
LG Optimus One (4/5)
Dave said: The Optimus One marks a massive leap forward from the disappointing Optimus original and keeps LG firmly in the smart phone game, at least for now. It’s very much a lower end Android, but it does a more than decent job within its budget limitations.
Nokia N8 (3/5)
Dave said: The Nokia will certainly find some fans, for its sturdy build, excellent screen and 12 megapixel camera, as well as decent battery life, but Symbian ultimately serves as a hindrance to Nokia’s good work elsewhere.
HTC 7 Mozart (4/5)
Dave said: Though there’s little to distinguish it from its Trophy brother, HTC’s Mozart is just a little ahead thanks to its 8-megapixel camera and hybrid plastic/aluminium casing. In general, it’s standard Windows Phone 7 all the way with a nice, fast, intuitive interface and a strong set of features.
Samsung Wave II (4/5)
Dave said: There’s not a huge jump from the original Wave to this, but if you’re an original owner it’s only worth upgrading if you have a particular hankering for a larger screen and HD video recording. Otherwise, it’s a better than okay phone and makes a good case for smartphone functionality in a budget package.
HTC Desire S (4/5)
Dave said: The original Desire was a lovely little Android smart phone and so is its successor, but the changes aren’t so huge that they make it a must-buy if you’ve already got the first one.
Dave said: The Xperia Play is a good smart phone, no question, but it’s the little things that count. The controls and gameplay all work well, but it’s a shame so many of the games aren’t fully optimised for the platform with some of the controls not utilised, and there’s no single method of paying for new games. This is likely to improve in time, but it really should have been sorted from the start.
Nokia E7 review (3/5)
Dave said: A tough cookie with some great features, including its battleship build, 8 megapixel camera and HDMI connection, but let down by the sluggardly slow and needlessly complex Symbian OS.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc (4/5)
Dave said: The Xperia Arc is a big jump on from its predecessor and puts Sony Ericsson back in Android smartphone contention. Whether you prefer its design tweaks over the best from HTC, Samsung or LG is a matter of personal taste, but with the latest version of the OS, a good quality camera and an excellent screen, it’s well worth considering.
Apple iPad 2 (4/5)
Emma said: The iPad 2 is still the best tablet around, but it's not quite the big leap forward everyone was hoping for. If it's your first time buying a tablet, we couldn't recommend it more highly. But if you're upgrading, we're not convinced that the iPad 2 delivers enough wow factor to be worth shelling out for.
LG Optimus 2X (4/5)
Dave said: The LG Optimus 2X is a lovely smartphone that ups the ante for rivals with the introduction of a dual core processor. But while it's certainly fast, other premium handsets are only a whisker behind.
HTC Incredible S (4/5)
Dave said: It may not have the very latest version of Android, and it may not be dual-core, but the Incredible S is an extremely powerful and versatile Android smartphone with a dare-to-be-different design.
Motorola Xoom (4/5)
Dave said: The Xoom is a very well constructed piece of kit, if a little on the chunky side compared with its iPad rival. It’s fast, efficient, and Android 3.0 looks great as well and works extremely well too. But while it might be an iPad-botherer, the weight, screen quality and that awful power lead mean the Xoom's not quite a beater.
Dell Venue Pro (3/5)
Dave said: It's a hefty beast, but solidly built, and text nutters will appreciate the physical QWERTY keyboard (though for many the onscreen keyboard is more than capable enough). It's a fast operator too though it would have been nice to see a few more features appearing on the WinPho 7 operating system by now. If you can put up with the bulk, it's a capable handset, a little cheaper than the HTC 7 Pro, but not really a front runner.
Samsung Galaxy S II (4/5)
Dave said: The Samsung Galaxy S II is a leap ahead of its predecessor and pretty much marks the state of the art in Android phones at the moment. With its sleek, slim good looks, dual core processor, quality 8 megapixel camera and Android Gingerbread, it’s just about as good as it gets, and a worthy challenger to the iPhone.
Samsung Solid Immerse (3/5)
Dave said: Samsung’s Solid Immerse prides itself on its rugged credentials, but though it talks the talk, it doesn’t quite walk the walk, falling down in our abuse tests for screen strength and casing robustness.
HTC Wildfire S (3/5)
Dave said: The Wildfire S’s diminutive size is its main asset, and improvements to screen and processor help it to keep pace with the times, though it’s no substitute for the high end.
Samsung Galaxy Ace (3/5)
Dave said: The Galaxy Ace is a decent little mid-range Android handset with a reasonably powerful processor, but it doesn’t really have much to make it stand out from the crowd.
Phew, I think that’s us around half way through. Interestingly, no 5/5s yet. Part 2 includes the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and iPhone 4S, so there’s everything to play for. It’ll follow just as soon as the New Year celebrations stop and I’m physically capable.