Leader of the Pack

Android Smartphone Rankings: January 2012

Welcome Sony, so long Ericsson. Android could use some fresh, inspired designs. Known for their superb hardware, Sony is just what the doctor ordered. Ion features a category-leading (for Android) 12MP camera.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus - a leading edge Android,

Competition is heating up for Android smartphone supremacy and we have the January rankings for our favorites – racked and stacked to help you make the right buy.

The end of last year was a gravy train for us Android fans. Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS – Android 4 – was the biggest news, of course, and landed on the deservedly hyped  Samsung Galaxy Nexus (though it featured one of the oddest product “launches” in recent memory).

Earlier both the HTC Rezound and Motorola Droid RAZR stole some of the spotlight with strong entries.

It was a tough choice: Rezound vs. RAZR vs. Nexus.

My biggest beef with Android, and smartphones in general including the iPhone 4S, is battery life. It’s just flat out atrocious. If you tell me that’s the price of running with the pack, that you can’t have it all, I’d quickly point out the new RAZR Maxx which we saw at CES (see Android Dilemma: Maxx or Nexus). Turns out they are listening to us battery depleted mortals. That’s a good thing. I still believe the day will come when we can go days – without having to shut off bluetooth, wi-fi, 4G… – on a single charge. After all, at the end of the day, these are just phones. They should jump through hoops for us, not vice versa. Are you with me?!

One side note related to something we heard at CES: Motorola will slow down Android product cycles.

Let’s face it, 2011 was insane. Trying to keep track of all the handsets, the carriers, the launch windows was just about as hard as keeping up with Robert Scobble. Motorola CEO Sanjay said, “”Over-choice hasn’t helped drive the marketplace.” He might be right. I put off upgrading my OG Droid knowing that new models were just around the corner. The smart  money said to wait for Quadcores we’d no doubt see at CES. Turns out I was wrong. Maybe I should’ve upgraded to the Nexus?

But therein lies the problem. Unlike Apple’s annual mega iPhone launch, us Androids have hundreds of launches to sort through. I wonder, is choice in this case good for consumers or is it confusing buyers making them delay purchases or – worse - capitulate and go iPhone?

Stark Stuff: Android Smartphone Rankings – January 2012

1. Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Verizon) 

Nexus earns bragging rights as our top pick for one simple reason: Ice Cream Sandwich. It’s a significant upgrade to the Android experience. Read the full Nexus review.

2. Motorola Droid RAZR Maxx (Verizon)

This is still in, though it comes at a price if you value battery life. Thankfully Motorola gives us choice: if you’re away from chargers during the day, and need to power through a lot of tasks, Maxx is your workhorse of choice. And it’s still the best designed Android out there. Pretty, pretty.

3. Sony Xperia Ion (AT&T)

Welcome Sony, so long Ericsson. Android could use some fresh, inspired designs. Known for their superb hardware, Sony is just what the doctor ordered. Ion features a category-leading (for Android) 12MP camera. Note that Ion won’t be available until Q2.

4. Motorola Droid RAZR (Verizon)

Give sexy. Like sexy. You sexy.

5. Motorola Droid 4 (Verizon)

Can’t live without a physical keyboard? This slider should do the job.

6. HTC Rezound (Verizon)

Dr. Dre beats help this under-appreciated Android stand out from the crowd. Well built, but not as sexy as some of the others here, it’s been a popular model among Android die-hards.

7. Samsung Galaxy Note (AT&T)

Two questions: do buyers want a huge 5.3-inch smartphone? It seems to us that you might as well just go all in, and get a 4G 7-inch tablet instead. And, didn’t we bid adieu to the stylus in the 90′s? Still, there was a lot of hype around this Android – and hype and products at CES are often a recipe for disaster – and we consider it an experiment in process.

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Clinton Stark
Clint is based in Silicon Valley and co-founded Stark Insider. A new media venture, the goal was to fill the increasing gap in arts and food & wine coverage. This site has consumed his every fiber. Yet, he still has time to talk Android, praise Pebble, and shoot videos. More: Clint's story...
  • Anonymous

    There’s more than hype around the Note. The rest of the world has been using it for months (myself included) and its for many the best phone ever.

    There’s also a good use case when you already have a mid-sized tablet …that seven incher still won’t go in the front pocket of your britches. And it looks a lot sillier than a Note when held up to your head making a voice call. :)

    • http://www.starkinsider.com Clinton Stark

      Ha right – also almost as silly as taking pictures with a 10-inch tablet! Which I ridiculously attempt all the time.

      I’m looking forward to getting my hands on the Note. I’m all for bigger, but as you suggest, as long as it still fits into my pocket.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=538937307 A.J. Minhas

    “After all, at the end of the day, these are just phones.”
    This comment is so off-the-mark and written by a person who doesn’t understand the mobile computing revolution. As someone who has been in IT for a quarter of a century, this Android device that I carry with me at all times, even at home in my pocket, is so much more than a phone. I used to have a simple, cellphone 2 years ago, before Android came into my life. I just upgraded before Christmas to my new Android 2.3.4 device. What a joy. NFL scores while I’m not near a TV or computer. No problem, I have an app for that. Weather for any city, anywhere at any time. No problem, I have an app for that. I’m looking to buy a new mattress at the store and put it on my debit card, but there isn’t enough cash in the checking account. No problem, I can sign on to my Credit Union using my Android device and transfer money from my savings to my checking account. I’ve got these refund checks I got in the mail. I really don’t feel like slogging over to the ATM to deposit them. No problem, my Credit Union has an Android app where I take pictures of the checks, front and back, enter the amounts and then click deposit on the app screen on my Android device. About 24 hours later, the deposit shows up in my checking account. Wow. I’m not sure any old phone can do all these things, but my Android device sure can.

    • http://www.starkinsider.com Clinton Stark

      Absolutely on mark. My point was that these devices – amazing as they are – serve to improve productivity, and our everyday lives. We shouldn’t need to manually shut off functions to improve battery life. I’m totally with you on the revolution- and if you’ve read me over the years you’ll know how much I’m blown away by mobile computing, and Android in particular. Thanks for your comment!

  • Greg

    I’m up for an upgrade in February. You just made my mind up for me: Razr Maxx, without a doubt!

  • galaxy user

    I was able to get almost 24hrs of use on my extended 2100mah battery.  Settings include disabling gtalk and g+, changing email sync intervals to manual.  They were the culprits of keeping my cpu awake.  I also changed my background to black. This allowed me to have 60% battery after about 10 hours after work.  This was with moderate use where I periodically checked my exchange calendar throughout the day.   This solved it.  I was going to go for the MAXX but now I’m going to keep the NEXUS.  

    • galaxy user

      PROS of the GALAXY over MAXX:better screen w/ 316ppi
      bigger screen
      pure android OS w/no overlay system
      first to receive any future updates
      NFC chip
      removable battery
      Android 4.0 (for now until Razr gets it)

      PROS MAXX over GALAXY:
      3300mah LiPo battery
      case is better build quality?
      21 hrs of talk time compared to 12.5 before

      That’s all I can think of for now…

  • Abercrombie

    Yes, I also buy this phone. Feeling just so so!