If 2010 was the year of the smartphone, then 2011 has been the year of the massive smartphone! Hardware manufacturers wanting their new devices to standout felt the need to equip them with finger-stretching 4-inch-plus touchscreens, some even going over 5-inch! While the screen size has increased, chassis thickness has decreased though, with ever-thinner phones being produced by Samsung, LG and Motorola.
It hasn’t only been about big screens either, as big processing power has defined the last twelve months too. Dual-core chips have become standard on most top-of-the-range handsets, and we’re expecting to see the very first quad-core smartphones early in the New Year.
Put simply, we’ve had a bumper year for exciting new mobiles, so to close it out in style, here are our top ten phone picks of the year.
Samsung Galaxy S II
Samsung’s Galaxy S II was released in April, and has gone on to win millions of fans around the world, as well as spawn a host of variations on several international networks. Despite being more than six months old, the spec still stands up, with a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED touchscreen, an 8 megapixel camera and Samsung’s Exynos 1.2GHz dual-core processor.
The phone’s implementation of Android Gingerbread is smooth and speedy, and it’s all squeezed inside an 8.5mm thick chassis which weighs only 116 grams. It’s Samsung’s finest hour and according to some, the finest Android handset on the market today.
Once all the complaining about the lack of a redesign had passed, people began to appreciate that the iPhone 4′s design wasn’t really out-of-date, and that the subtle upgrade to the A5 dual-core processor and an 8 megapixel camera with 1080p video recording, made an already excellent phone even better.
But it was iOS 5 and Apple’s Siri personal assistant that garnered all the attention. Siri’s ability to understand conversational instructions, and even ask questions, gives an exciting glimpse of the future – remember, it’s only a beta according to Apple – and iOS 5 refines the phone’s ease-of-use even further.
The ultimate expression of 2011′s obsession with massive screens, the appropriately named Titan’s 4.7-inch Super LCD makes quite an impression when the phone’s sitting in your palm. The 8 megapixel camera and 1.5GHz processor ensures the rest of the spec impresses too.
However, it’s Windows Phone 7 that shines here, as the Titan’s generous screen real estate suits the bold Metro UI perfectly. Is it over-the-top? A bit ostentatious? Yes, and we love it!
Nokia Lumia 800
If the Titan is the Windows Phone 7 equivalent of the Porsche Cayenne, then the Lumia 800 is the 911 Carrera 4S. Next to the iPhone 4S, Nokia’s first Windows Phone 7 devices were arguably the most anticipated phones of the year, and the sleek, sexy handset didn’t disappoint.
Taking its design queues from the N9, the gorgeous polycarbonate body houses a 3.7-inch touchscreen, a 1.4GHz processor and an 8 megapixel camera. Thanks to Nokia’s relationship with Microsoft, it’s loaded with special software too, including Nokia Drive and Nokia Music.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S
Is this the best looking smartphone of the year? Sony Ericsson never made it into our top ten list from 2010, so the appearance of the Arc S is a welcome one. At 8.7mm it rivals the Samsung Galaxy S II for super-slimness, and the beautifully contoured chassis makes it stand out in a world of rather bland Android slabs.
A 1.4GHz Scorpion processor, an 8 megapixel camera and the Bravia Engine 4.2-inch touchscreen headline the spec sheet, and Sony Ericsson’s tweaks to Android Gingerbread work very well. The Arc S is also going to receive an update to Ice Cream Sandwich in 2012 too.
HTC Sensation XE
No sooner had the HTC Sensation been released, than the Sensation XE and Sensation XL joined it and we’ve chosen the XE to represent the best of HTC’s Android offerings this year.
The 1.5Ghz processor is the major difference between the XE and the Sensation, as the 4.3-inch Super LCD screen remains the same, but it’s the addition of Beats by Dr. Dre audio technology and the inclusion of a special set of Beats headphones, that make the XE most interesting to Android and music fans alike.
Samsung Galaxy Nexus
The phone formerly known as the Nexus Prime is the very first – and currently only – smartphone to run Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, and the third in Google’s line of Nexus devices.
While the 5 megapixel camera may seem a little weedy compared to some of its rival smartphones, the 1.2GHz processor, option of either 16GB or 32GB of storage, and a giant 4.65-inch Super AMOLED screen with an HD resolution of 720 x 1280 pixels more than makes up for it.
Announced at the very beginning of the year, the Motorola Atrix was one of the first dual-core smartphones on the market, and is equipped with Nvidia’s impressive 1GHz Tegra 2 chipset.
Even though the 4-inch, 540 x 960 pixel touchscreen and 5 megapixel camera still sound great, it’s the versatile dock accessory – changing the phone into a netbook – which cements the Atrix’s position in out top ten of the year.
LG Optimus 3D
3D televisions have increased in popularity this year, and several smartphones jumped on the bandwagon too, with out favourite being LG’s Optimus 3D. While the 3D elements to the display may be a gimmick, the dual-lens 3D camera proved far more interesting.
Pictures shot using the camera could be shown in 3D on the phone, or beamed to a compatible TV using the DLNA connection. The hardware was equally as cutting edge, with a 4.3-inch touchscreen and a 1GHz dual-core processor.
Not everyone has £500 to spend on a top-of-the-range phone, or even wants one if they do, and Nokia once again proved you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a competent smartphone. Costing a fraction of the other devices featured here, the Nokia 700 still has a 1Ghz processor, a 5 megapixel camera and a 3.2-inch AMOLED touchscreen.
Symbian Belle is a big improvement over previous editions of the OS, and Nokia’s own navigation software is streets (sorry) ahead of the competition. Cheap Android phones are often sluggish and refuse to run certain apps, making the Nokia 700 an informed and sensible buy.
So that’s it, in no particular order, our top ten mobile phones of the year. While both LG and Sony Ericsson pushed their way back after being absent from the list in 2010, it’s another no-show for RIM and their BlackBerry phones. The Bold 9900 may be the best BlackBerry yet, but it just didn’t shine in the company of phones such as those featured above. Will they make it back for 2012?
Are you the proud owner of one of our top ten phones? Or would you like to make the case for one which didn’t quite make the cut? Until next year …