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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Android Smartphone Round-Up: October Edition

Jordan Crook studied English Literature at New York University before entering the tech space. Prior to joining TechCrunch, Crook dabbled in mobile marketing and mobile apps as well as doing device reviews for MobileMarketer and MobileBurn. Crook is fascinated with alternative energy production and greentech. She is now a writer for CrunchGear. ? Learn More


Even with Ice Cream Sandwich on the way, Android Gingerbread devices are still as hot as ever. That said, there are way too many Android handsets on the market to parse through each and every one, but that’s why we’re here. We’ve looked through all the latest Android smartphones to give you our brief thoughts on the pick of the litter. These aren’t full-length reviews, but rather a way for you to easily compare what we think to be the most full-featured Android handsets released this month. Hopefully, your shopping research just got way less intensive.

For the glorious and spooky month of October, we’re putting the following handsets on the table: Samsung Galaxy S II (AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint) Motorola Droid RAZR (Verizon, and maybe AT&T), HTC Amaze 4G (T-Mobile), and the Samsung Stratosphere (Verizon). While each of these phones run Android 2.3 Gingerbread, they all have something different they bring to the table, along with varying price tags.

Let’s take a closer look, yes?

The Samsung Galaxy S II is one of the hottest selling handsets in the world, and with good reason. The specs are pretty heavenly along with the design, but it’s not all rainbows and sunshine with the S II. Since it launched earlier than the rest of our options, it may be a bit more “outdated” (at least here in the world of smartphones) than the rest.


4.5-inch 480×800 Super AMOLED Plus display (4.3-inch at AT&T)1.2GHz dual-core processor8MP rear camera (1080p video capture), 2MP front cameraTouchWiz$199.99


Carrier flexibility: Sprint, T-Mobile and AT&T are all carrying the S IIConsidering pricing and specs together, this is the best deal you’ll find in our optionsLargest screen in our line-up for all the Netflix/Hulu+ fans out there


Different models at each carrier — some are better than othersGalaxy Nexus and Droid RAZR already stealing its gloryFlimsy battery cover — rough-and-tumble phone owners, beware

If you’re nearing the end of your contract, here are some things to consider about the three carrier variants.

Sprint’s big advantage is its unlimited data. Its model basically keeps the same design as the global version, with the exception of four capacitive buttons where there used to be an optical trackpad. T-Mobile, on the other hand, has decided to differentiate on a design level, which is something I usually frown upon. In this case, T-Mo rounded out the back and the corners, which (in my opinion) gives the handset a much less “Galaxy S II” feel. AT&T’s S II separates itself from the herd with a smaller screen, and thus better pixel density.

The RAZR is the newest in our October lineup, and also the thinnest smartphone in the world according to Motorola. The specs are sure to get your endorphins pumping, but you should know that Verizon and Motorola have put quite a hefty price tag on this form of happiness.


4.3-inch 540×960 qHD Super AMOLED display1.2GHz dual-core processor8MP rear camera (1080p video capture), 1.3MP front camrea7.1mm waist line4G LTE support from Verizon$299.99


Durability: Stainless steel core, Kevlar fiber casing, Splash Guard technologyLTE speedsThe RAZR has already been promised Ice Cream Sandwich


$299 for a smartphone (even this smartphone) is a lot these daysIt sports the classic Droid bump, which isn’t so hot on such a thin phoneVerizon stifled Moto’s bootloader unlock solution

Overall the Droid RAZR has a lot going for it. The specs speak for themselves, but even beyond that, the RAZR has a way of feeling solid and super light at the same time, which seems to be a difficult balance to strike. The only real catch is the price tag, especially in a world where the “world’s thinnest phone” or “the world’s most durable phone” gets it title swiped by something new in about a month.

The Amaze 4G’s claim to fame is its beastly camera, but as far as looks go this thing will definitely get insecure sitting next to the Droid RAZR or the Galaxy S II. It’s pretty hefty, weighing in at 6 ounces, and has a chunky design that’s only amplified by its white casing. Everyone knows not to wear white if you want to look slim, right? Still, the Amaze 4G has its benefits too, with a snappy processor and support from T-Mobile’s 4G network (with theoretical speeds of 42Mbps).


4.3-inch 540×960 S-LCD display1.5GHz dual-core processor8-megapixel rear camera (with 1080p video capture), 2MP rear camera4G (HSPA+) on T-Mobile$259.99


Great cameraThe fastest processor in our lineupSense 3.0 UI is the most attractive of Android skins right now


Bulky, Bulky, BulkyAlmost as expensive as a the RAZR above, but doesn’t feel like itPicks up prints and dirt, again amplified by the white casing

When it comes down to it, the Amaze 4G should really only end up in the pockets of photogs. It can basically fill the role of just about any point-and-shoot, but if you’re looking for a phone that can do it all, the Amaze 4G probably won’t amaze. It’s just too heavy and expensive to justify it as a great all-around phone, especially against the well-rounded feature sets on our other October options.

The Stratosphere is the cheapest in our lineup, and also the only smartphone with a physical keyboard that we deemed suitable for our October pick of the litter. Its specs can’t necessarily keep up with the beasts above, but for textaholics, speed demons, and penny-pinchers this could be just what you’re looking for.


4-inch 480×800 Super AMOLED display1GHz single-core processor5MP rear camera, 1.3MP front camera4G LTE support from VerizonFive-row sliding QWERTY keyboard$149.99


4G LTE speedsSpacious keyboardCheapest phone in this roundup


1GHz processor slower than competitorsTouchWiz may slow things down furtherNo 1080p recording

As with every smartphone, the Samsung Stratosphere is built with a certain type of consumer in mind. If you shoot a lot of video on the fly, multi-task most of the time, or watch a good deal of mobile video, the Stratosphere is probably not for you. On the other hand, if you can’t stand a slow connection and heart physical keyboards, this mid-range Samsung offering is exactly what you need.

Well, that’s it for our October Android round-up, but make sure to keep your eyes peeled for next month’s treasures.

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