Android Upgrade Dilemma: HTC One X, Samsung Galaxy S III, Droid Fighter

Here are some of the hottest Androids that we should see land on Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and/or T-Mobile over the next few months.

Samsung Galaxy S2
Finally it looks like some decent next-gen handsets are hitting the US.
Samsung Galaxy S2
Finally it looks like some decent next-gen Androids are hitting North America.

This is starting to look better. Finally we’re seeing some Android handsets worth talking about. 2012 ended strongly, with the launch of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and the intro of Ice Cream Sandwich to the world. Well, a smart part. 1.6% of the Android world to be exact (but: Do consumers really care?). CES and MWC were let-downs. A lot of hype, but little follow through in terms of products – save the Galaxy Note which looks like a surprise hit.

But that could change.

On the horizon finally some lust-worthy kit approaches: HTC One X (or whatever US name it becomes), Samsung Galaxy S III, and the Droid Fighter. Sony, I don’t really think they’re going to make the cut. I could be wrong about that, but so far the specs on their upcoming models are middle-of-the-road.

If you’ve been following my agonizing trials and tribulations here on Stark Insider, you already know (all too well I fear) that I’m still lugging that classic ’09 model, the OG Moto Droid. The one that essentially kicked Android into high gear. November 2009. Things would never be the same; just ask Microsoft or RIM about that. So I keep hanging on to Droid and Gingerbread, hoping for the next best thing. I’d like the best possible Android so I can retire my trusty Droid, but it’s got to be on Verizon as I’m grandfathered on unlimited data – no way I want to give that up. I almost went for the Nexus, but if it weren’t for that woeful battery life. RAZR Maxx looks good. But we’re so close to the next wave of uber-Androids I’m convinced it’s worth waiting just a few weeks more. Meanwhile Friend of Stark showed me how to root a Samsung Galaxy S2. I took a leap. And now have a brilliant – wi-fi only – unlocked S2 running ICS.

All that to say, here are some of the hottest Androids that we should see landing on Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and/or T-Mobile over the next few months, with at least one or two possibly even as early as April.

Which would you pick as your Android of choice for the next two years?

HTC One X

Most-likely carrier: Sprint. AT&T.

Android
Everything leads me to believe Sprint will be first to market in the US with the HTC One X.

First off, huge disappointment. Only Europe will get the Tegra 3 quad-core. So much for that. Still, word has it X will ship with a 1.5GHz dual core processor and 1GB ram. Sense is always a hot button. I’d rather not have it, especially after seeing how brilliantly stock ICS (Cyanogenmod) runs on the Galaxy S2. Pure Google is pure joy. This X will launch on Sprint next month if our sources are right, with AT&T soon after. If true, this Android is a non-starter as we’re not likely to see it on Verizon in the near-term.

Samsung Galaxy S III

Most likely carrier: AT&T. Verizon?

Ice Cream Sandwich
Forget those grade-school mock-ups. Here's what the S III could look like. I give you Clint's mock-up, aka the S II running ICS (Cyanogenmod).

This one is going to be hot. The predecessor is Samsung’s best selling phone, though it can’t quite achieve the same level of success that is the iPhone 4S – but who can at this point? Some rather ridiculous looking “leaked” shots of the S III have been making the rounds. They look as phony as a Mike Daisey Shenzhen essay. Any sight of Touchwiz brings make me noxious; it’s far worse than Sense if it’s any consolation to HTC. The S III specs are drawing all sorts of wild conjecture: quad-core Exynos, 12MP camera, ceramic frame, inductive charging (yes, please!),

Motorola Droid Fighter

Most likely carrier: Verizon.

Droid Fighter
I wonder what exactly the story is behind this photo? Did this worker risk his or her life to snap a quick pic?

I admit to being partial to Moto. An American company, it bootstrapped, along with compatriots Verizon, Google, the whole “Droid Does” mantra and took Android to amazing heights. All of a sudden, here was this mysterious dark/red world where iPhones wouldn’t stand a chance. It was incredibly techy. The extreme differentiation — iPhone = bubblegum, Droid = muscle — worked. The bloodshed came predominantly from RIM and Microsoft. Like the S III, equally ridiculous “leaked” photos of the Fighter are making the rounds. Oh, there! An out-of-focus SKU! A non-descript, rectangular phone with the Verizon logo! Wowwww! Of course, there’s me, just as eager as the next guy, checking it all out. Expect a 4.6-inch screen. HD no doubt. ICS. Best of all it looks like the Fighter (I keep picturing Galaga for some reason) will use softkeys like the Nexus… just the way I like it.

Ranking

Here’s how I’d rank them. Keep in mind I’m on Verizon with unlimited data, so that factors into my thoughts here. Droid Fighter and S III run neck-and-neck in my estimation, and will cause a huge upgrade storm in the coming months, myself likely included.

STARKIN: Spring 2012 Android Picks

1. Moto Droid Fighter / Verizon

2. Samsung S III / AT&T

3. HTC “One X”

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  • Clinton: I am in lock-step with your upgrade search. I started with Droids in 2009 also, and have since gone through two full phone replacements and two batteries. Still loyal! My Verizon contract is up in May, so I’m waiting to see which way you jump.

    • Good to know I’m not the last person on planet earth with a 2009 Droid. It’s been amazing (running Nav, Gmail, streaming music at the same time with no issues!) but is ready for retirement. I’m somewhat loyal to Motos so the Droid Fighter is looking pretty good.

  • Raymond Yang

    This is my first time reading your blog, but you seem misinformed: the One X was announced to be available on AT&T within the coming months upon release.

    • Since I’m on Verizon with unlimited data, it would take one heck of an AT&T handset to make the switch, so that’s why it’s likely a non-starter for me.

      • Ed Koller

        I think you missed the point Raymond was making. The One X has been announced to launch on AT&T first in April. Sprint won’t see it until June most likely. Which is in direct disagreement with your article.

  • Michaelhlong

    Like you, I have the original DROID. Still works great! My contract is up in April and I ALMOST jumped on the Razr, so glad I didn’t. The battery life issue killed it for me. Then they come out with the Maxx, 3 months later with the battery that SHOULD have been in the Razr. Man, I’d be SO pissed if Id be stuck for 2 years. That’s my issue with Verizon, too many damn releases that promise the moon, for 3 months anyway. Seems like it would be smarter to release 1 phone every 6 months instead of flooding the market with phones and alienating your fans. I dream of the day when you just pay for the phone, and it works with ANY provider. Unlimited everything ONE YEAR contracts. I guess Im waiting on the DROID Fighter, I hope they keep the build quality as in Maxx, and decide to make the battery removable. Maybe I’m dreaming. One other gripe: What’s the deal making phones able to do everything with fast multiple processors, then limit the data? That’s like having the Model T Ford automobile with a buggy whip, just in case. Just sayin……

    • Ha, your story cuts close to home! With a new Android just 2-3 months around the corner it’s hard to pull the upgrade trigger without being absolutely certain. Samsung and others have said they’re going to slow down the release cycle. We’ll see. I think it’s a good idea to focus on fewer, higher profile, more powerful models rather than flood the market as you rightfully note. Limited data is big carrier thinking of yesteryear. Your analogy is perfect. I used to feel bad when they introduced caps in Canada. Now the joke’s on us! Droid Fighter is looking pretty good.

  • Tony

    Your analysis is dead on. Me and my wife are still rocking our original Droids. Nothing else has quite made the cut as a legitimate upgrade. The next 2 months should be an interesting time.

    • Thanks Tony. I’ve been hyper-focused on the Android market the last 3 years. People think I’m insane- hopefully in a quirky, fun way. The OG Droid amazes. 28 months later and it still runs remarkably well. Testament to Google and Android! I think I’ll finally be upgrading though in the next wave. It took some amount of fortitude to “pass” on the showcase that was the RAZR and Nexus.

  • Barkley Fan

    I started with OG. Still have it, but it’s not online anymore. Went with X, because of app storage. Moved to Thunderbolt to enjoy broadband speeds. After half a year, it looked like it had been used as a chewtoy for a pitbul. Nexus lack of SD and capacitive buttons were both dealkillers. Razr battery was a dealkiller, and bootloader was a concern as well. Upgraded to a Maxx. I now have a Maxx on 3 lines. It is THAT phone for me. I am confident it will get me through a 2 year contract. It’s solid in every single facet. None of these devices make me rethink my decision, altho a more concrete spec list might impress. I even like the new Blur, and the bloatware is actually useful, for the most part. Motocast, Smartactions, no bugs, easy SD access, and all weekend battery life. There is a reason this thing is on backorder.

    • “it looked like it had been used as a chewtoy for a pitbul” – sounds like my old BlackBerry 8700 on Cingular! Maxx: I agree. I’d rank it ahead of Galaxy Nexus for top Android on the market today.

  • Bob

    Samsung Galaxy III is the one to beat.  If the past is any indication of the future, it will also be on more than just Verizon and At&t..  

  • Greg

    Thanks for the article Clinton. According to rumors, T-Mobile will be coming out with the HTC One X quad core this summer. It will have the native ice cream sandwich ui. Here’s a link:
    http://www.mobilebloom.com/htc-one-x-headed-to-us-shores-via-t-mobile-as-the-t-mobile-g4x/2210896/

  • CelticBrewer

    Clint, I could have written this story. You and I are in exactly the same boat with the same thoughts and hopes. I would have the maxx right now if they were in stock to replace my OG, but now that I’ve heard of S III, I’m thinking it’s best to wait and see.

    • Thanks- I’m guessing there are still a bunch of OG holdouts… refugees! I almost jumped at RAZR Maxx. Now that Google owns Motorola Mobility I’m hoping the Fighter and other upcoming Motorola handsets are stock ICS. I’ll be giving strong consideration to the S III as well. The S II still impresses me, so I can only imagine how could the next one is!

  • JonasDTG

    Hahaha, I completely sympathize with your predicament.  I too was an OG Droid user up until last month.  Unfortunately my OGD wasn’t holding up as well (head phone jack was shorting which was the major issue), so an upgrade was more critical for me.  I had been closely monitoring the major Android releases for 6-7 months waiting for the one that would be worth the jump.

    After agonizing over which to choose, I picked up a Maxx last month.  I’ve been completely blown away by nearly every aspect of the phone.  There are still elements of the Nexus and the upcoming heavy hitters that are intriguing, but ultimately I’m so satisfied with the Maxx I don’t anticipate much (if any) buyer’s remorse.  It really is that fantastic of a device.  

    Of course I wouldn’t turn down hd screen resolution, quad core processing, a removable battery or ICS.  But if you’re waiting for that perfect phone that nails every bullet point on your check list, we might still be reading your search updates this time next year!  

    Then again, that perfect device might be just around the corner…

    • Good choice with RAZR Maxx. It’s fantastic. The funny thing is the only reason I’m holding onto OGD and not yet upgrading is because of the newer models coming out in a matter of weeks. If they (Samsung, HTC, Moto, …) launched new models once per year (not gonna happen) I’d have retired Droid, and gone Maxx!

  • Karl B

    Great write up, and I am in the EXACT same boat as you.   Droid OG, unlimited data.   One question I had though was, I thought when we upgraded our phones they would force us into a limited data plan?   Is this not true?   I like the looks of the Fighter and might be making the switch, especially if I get to keep unlimited data on 4G!   Thanks!

  • Zbruggs4

    Am I a weirdo because I, for one, am really crossing my fingers that the ASUS Padfone comes to Verizon?  I know it is highly unlikely (since it will cut into their revenue by eliminating tethering/multiple data plans) but it looks simply amazing!  A Phone that powers a tablet!!!!!!!!!!!!!   Asus make some really great products  – and the phone looks to be almost stock ICS – brilliant!….  If not I will probably settle for the Galaxy SIII… 

    • Padfone looks interesting to me too. Like idea of 2 devices, 1 data plan. I bet we start to see more of these hybrid/combo products. But you’re probably right. This would cannibalize carrier revenue, and we know how Big Red thinks!

  • Chad Rainey

    Clinton:  Spot on!  I just hit the end of my 2yr with VZN  and am holding out for future releases.  Hopefully, VZN will reconsider their branding buffoonery and get in line with HTC’s One series.  Like you I don’t want to lose my unlimited data privilege so I’m going to stay with the mother ship.  I’m getting bored with my stock Droid X and am thinking of rooting it for the next couple of months just for fun.  I’m a nube to rooting so would you have any advice or links to rooting for dummies?  I need to know the pros and cons, plus any preferred ROMs, apps, tools, etc.  Many thanks, and I look forward to your updates on this Android Upgrade Dilema.  

    • “Branding Buffoonery” nice, I might need to co-opt that! Yes, definitely want to hang on that unlimited data plan. Unforunately it’s becoming a rare commodity.

      Rooting is a blast – as I’ve discovered on our adventures here with an S2. It’s easier than ever too. Check out “ROM Manager” on Google Play Store. Just root your X, and off you go. Here’s some links to help out (remember: proceed at your own risk, good sir… if you brick you may just find yourself upgrading sooner than planned):

      1. How to root droid bionic
      http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1254516

      2. Bionic thread on xda-developers (the defacto source for all things root)
      http://www.xda-developers.com/tag/motorola-bionic/

      3. ClockworkMod – makers of ROM Manager
      http://www.clockworkmod.com/

      4. CynaogenMod – these guys make great ROMS, including ICS for S2, and some for Bionic
      http://www.cyanogenmod.com/

      Good luck! And it’s all fun and games, until someone loses an eye (indie short film tip: watch “Spider” on Netflix).

  • Rhianasrebro

    I LOVE my OG Droid. 3 years strong now. I’m also with VZW and I’m due this month to upgrade. I was floating around with it and apparently if you do decide to use your upgrade, your contract will automatically be changed from the unlimited to a limited plan. You can by-pass it only by purchasing a new phone outright, not using the upgrade. We are also grandfathered in and I just happened to see it in the fine print before I ordered. 

  • Jone

    1. Tie between Samsung Galaxy SIII and HTC One X

    An EXTREMELY distant number 2.  Motorola Droid Fighter

  • roberto

    I went with the Razr maxx from Galaxy Nexus. Loved the Nexus..HATED battery.  I am still within my 14 day return period..still have the nexus (which I bought on ebay). Should I hold out for the Fighter? Is it going to be THAT good?  I could ‘limp” along with my Nexus :).  How long till the fighter comes out? Also, ETA of ICS on the Maxx?  

  • Adam

    i hope the Galaxy SIII comes out on Verizon. I have the Fascinate (sub-par phone) but truly enjoy having unlimited data. I like tethering the 3G when I’m having WiFi issues, so having 4G should be excellent.

  • Mahsoom Moosa42

    at&t is to bring the one x to US first. Sprint should release the rebranded HTC One, HTC Evo One.