Appolicious powers Verizon Educational Tools

No new iPhone? No worries with these great Android smartphones

by Marty Gabel

Apple in recent years used the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) to announce its latest and greatest iPhone, but that didn’t happen this year. The iPhone 4 is still going strong and remains an excellent device, but before you grab one, or if you want to try something different, there are some great Android phones worth considering too. For each of the four major network carriers, there are at least one or two excellent Android devices which can stand up against, and perhaps even surpass, the features and functionality of Apple’s iPhone 4.

Verizon: HTC Thunderbolt, Xperia Play

The HTC Thunderbolt is a bit of a beast. It sports a huge 4.3-inch LCD screen with a 480x800 pixel resolution and a nicely designed aluminum unibody form-factor. With front and rear cameras, noise-cancelling mics, a Qualcomm 1GHz processor, pre-installed 32GB SD card and running Android 2.2, there’s plenty here to keep you happy. But we haven’t got to the best bit yet: This phone runs on Verizon’s 4G LTE network, so you can expect super-fast download data transfer speeds. The downside? All that power is going to cost you battery life. You may need to pack a charger if you want to play with this baby all day.

From Sony Ericsson, the newly released Xperia Play is a little different. It might not have 4G, but instead, this is a phone for pure gaming enthusiasts as its slide-out screen reveals a cool PlayStation-like control pad instead of a keyboard. There’s a bunch of older Sony PlayStation games to get a hold of, plus some newer Android offerings on the way. Admittedly, gaming on the Android might not yet be up to the standards of the titles in Apple’s iTunes App Store, but seriously, Android is catching up quickly and will be a force to be reckoned with soon enough. With the Xperia, you’re getting the best of gaming from both Sony and Android.

Sprint: HTC EVO 4G, Nexus S 4G

The Nexus S 4G from Google offers a stripped-down Android experience free from unnecessary pre-installed ‘bloatware’ apps common on many other phones. This highly customizable device is ‘pure Google’ and many Android users will prefer this experience to the bells and whistles other manufacturers load onto their phones. It can still take advantage of Sprint’s 4G WiMax network, offers a beautiful 4-inch slightly curved display, and will always be the first phone to get Google’s Android software updates. For hardcore Android users who want to keep things pure, this a great choice.

The HTC EVO 4G was the nation’s first 4G phone, and though it is a year or so old and is likely to get superseded by the EVO 3D later this month, it still packs a fair old punch. Sporting a large, bright 4.3” screen, this phone lets you take advantage of Sprint’s speedy 4G WiMax network. You’re also likely to find your monthly cellular bills with Sprint are lower if you choose your plan carefully. With an expected update to Android’s 2.3 Gingerbread operating system in the next few days, the EVO 4G will still keep you ahead of the pack for a while yet.

AT&T: Motorola Atrix 4G, Samsung Infuse 4G

Hello Moto. The Atrix has some fine tricks up its sleeve. For a start, it packs a dual-core NVIDIA Tegra processor and 1GB of RAM which means it can run the latest games and apps without a hitch. Offering a 4-inch qHD display with a 960x540 pixel resolution, front and rear cameras, and plenty of storage space through its 16GB internal memory (and up to 32GB via SD card), the Atrix is a phone packing plenty of heat. Most intriguing of all is the Motorola Lapdock, an accessory the phone can plug in to complete with full keyboard and 11.6” backlit screen. Boom... all of a sudden your phone’s transferred into a perfectly capable laptop computer.

If all that technical wizardry sounds a little too complicated, the Samsung Infuse 4G is a better choice for many. And it still offers a rich and powerful Android experience nevertheless. This is a very slim device despite its high resolution 4.5” Super AMOLED display. Like the Atrix, Samsung’s new Infuse can take advantage of the faster data speeds offered by AT&T’s 21Mbps HSPA+ network, but it’s a little more consumer-friendly and packs a battery that lasts a little longer too.

T-Mobile: T-Mobile G2x, Samsung Galaxy S 4G

It may be a while before T-Mobile gets sucked up into the clutches of AT&T via their proposed merger. Until that happens, there are still some great Android devices to be found on the network. The T-Mobile G2x is a brand new smartphone from LG which offers a dual-core NVIDIA Tegra processor so you can play all the latest high-def games, the ability to browse the web using T-Mobile’s speedy 4G HSPA+ network, and plenty of storage space for all your apps. Like the Nexus S we described above, the G2x provides a basic stripped-down version of Android 2.2 (but still a lot of pre-installed apps, unfortunately), and some customers have complained about poor battery life despite its fantastic, crisp 4-inch display and swift performance.

Meanwhile, the Samsung Galaxy S 4G is an update to the well-received Vibrant from last year. This is a lightweight device sporting a rear 5-megapixel camera but unfortunately, no flash. It also has a front-facing camera for video chat and a 16GB SD card included. More than just a cursory update to its predecessor, the Galaxy S 4G lets you browse on T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network, and generally offers a smoother and faster experience overall. The Galaxy S 4G should receive an update to Android 2.3 Gingerbread soon.

In conclusion...

So there you have it, eight top-notch devices offering an Android alternative to the iPhone. Every one of these new devices can also display Adobe Flash content right out of the box -- an advantage for many.

All these phones also offer the flexibility of home screen widgets, tens of thousands of great apps from the Android Market, and a notification system that Apple will only begin to offer with their iOS 5 update in the fall. But of course, not everything is perfect. Android still has its issues with fragmentation, and sometimes doesn’t offer the smooth, seamless experience that Apple’s iPhone can.

But, it’s steadily improving, and more than anything, the variety of devices offered means there is a phone for everyone. You can bet there’s going to be a whole heap more released in the coming months if you don’t see one you are thrilled about right now.