Google’s Android phones are becoming a popular choice among consumers, right along with Apple’s iPhones and Research in Motion’s BlackBerrys. Android-based phones are available on a number of different carriers, so we thought we’d try and find the best Android phone.
The challenge, of course, is that every consumer has different needs and expectations for their phone. We factored in these variables when making the list, as well as offering selections from the different carriers.
Best Android Phones on Verizon
Samsung Fascinate ($199.99 w/2-year contract and after rebates)
A part of the Samsung Galaxy S line of products, the Fascinate is one of the latest Android phones, and also one of the most accessible of the phones. In fact, it’s probably the best Android phone for new users to either Android or to smart phones in general.
It uses Samsung’s TouchWiz interface, which is a little different from most other Android interfaces, but is more novice friendly in terms of navigation and app management. With a 4-inch screen, the Fascinate has a 5.0-megapixel camera w/auto–focus, an LED flash and a 2GB internal memory. The phone can also act as WiFi hot spot provided you sign up for Verizon's Mobile Broadband plan.
Motorola Droid X ($199.99 w/2-year contract and after rebates)
The Motorola Droid series is probably the most recognizable of the Android phones given Motorola’s aggressive marketing of the phone. The Droid X has a 4.3-inch screen, an 8-MP camera that has HD video capture and HDMI output, 8GB of internal memory, and a built-in 16GB MicroSD card.
The phone runs the Motorblur software to navigate your apps and widgets, but like with all Android phones, you can adjust the interface until it works just as you like it. The video capture program utilizes 3 microphones and various environmental settings to make the best video possible on a phone.
Best Android Phones on Sprint
Samsung Epic 4G (Sprint, $249.99 w/2-year contract and after rebates)
Another in the Samsung Galaxy S line, the Epic 4G is probably the best Android phone for power users. The Epic 4G has a 4-inch screen, a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, a front-facing camera (perfect for video chatting), an LED flash, and is supported by Sprint’s 4G network, including acting as a 3G/4G hot spot.
The phone also excels at video playback, with quicker buffering and high-quality resolution. The Epic 4G only has 1GB internal memory, so take advantage of the 16GB MicroSD Card included with the phone.
HTC Evo 4G (Sprint, $199.99 w/2-year contract and after rebates)
The first 4G phone, the HTC Evo, like the Droid line, has had considerable marketing behind it to make consumers aware of the phone. And like the Droid X, the Evo is a multimedia powerhouse. It runs HTC Sense for the UI, probably the strongest of the third party Android UIs, has a 4.3-inch screen, 1GB internal memory, 8GB MicroSD card, 8-MP camera and a 1.3-MP front facing camera for video chatting.
The phone has an HDMI output and a kickstand for easy viewing on your desk. This is pretty useful as the Evo streams video well (though Sprint TV is a little jumpy). The Evo can also act as a 3G/4G hot spot for other devices to connect to at will.
Best Android Phones on T-Mobile
G2 (T-Mobile, $199.99 w/2-year contract and after rebates or $99 through Amazon w/2-year contract)
The newest phone on the list, the G2 is also the only straight-from-Google phone on the list. With a 3.7-inch screen, the G2 also sports 4GB of internal memory, a 5-MP camera with an LED flash, and a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. The G2 doesn’t have a third party UI laid over it, so you get Android’s UI straight up, while still having the ability to fine-tune it to your liking.
For T-Mobile users, the exciting news about the G2 is that it’s the first phone to run on the carrier’s HSPA+ network, which has 4G-like speeds without actually being 4G. It won’t be as fast as the actual 4G networks, but it's an improvement over the 3G. That said, video, both regular and high resolutions, play well on the phone.
Samsung Vibrant (T-Mobile, $199.99 w/2-year contract and after rebates)
Yet another Galaxy S phone, the Vibrant sports a 4-inch screen, 16GB of internal memory (the most of any phone on the list, along with the Captivate below) and a 5-MP camera. It runs, of course, Samsung’s TouchWiz UI.
The phone keeps pace with the Evo and the Droid X when it comes to video playback. The Vibrant comes pre-loaded with a copy of Avatar (whether this is a positive or a negative depends on you) that plays very well on the phone’s high-resolution screen.
Best Android Phones on AT&T
Samsung Captivate (AT&T, $199.99 w/2-year contract and after rebates)
AT&T hasn’t been quick to adopt Android phones (the iPhone does amazingly well for them), but the Captivate represents a good first step. And you guessed it: the Captivate is another in Samsung’s Galaxy S series, so it comes with the TouchWiz UI. A 4-inch screen and 5-MP camera with auto-focus and HD video capture, and 16GB internal memory round out the basic specs for the phone. The Captivate can’t function as a hot spot but it can steer you to AT&T’s WiFi hot spots.
The phone’s HD video capture rivals the Droid X’s, but lacks the sound recording strength. MP4 video and audio plays very well on the phone, with proper amounts of balance, sound, and color.
HTC Aria (AT&T, $299.99)
The Aria was AT&T’s first Android phone. It has a 3.2-inch screen (tiny compared to the others on the list) with a 5-MP camera, HTC Sense UI, and a slight 512MB internal memory (thought it comes with a 2GB MicroSD card).
The phone audio and video playbacks are solid, though nothing quite in league with the other phones on the list. Self-loaded media plays back better than anything streaming from the Web. The video recording is likewise solid but can get blurry depending on how much movement it is recording.
Got more thoughts on the best Android phone? Leave us a note in the comments below.