The 5 Best (and Worst) Android Devices of 2011

December 31, 2011
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Ah, New Year's Day. A time for reflection and resolution, and in many cases, staying up too late in the company of good friends and large amounts of alcohol. Here at Android Community, we like to ring in the new year sitting quietly in wingback chair, staring contemplatively into a roaring fire and guzzling a $5 gallon of brandy while watching the Times Square ball drop on our Android tablets. Before we start getting the old DT's, we'll wrap up the best - and worst - devices of 2011.

Give me the bad news first, doctor:

5.  Kyocera Echo

Ambition and risk go hand in hand. Kyocera learned that lesson when they released the Echo, the first Android phone with a dual-screen design. As much as we'd love to double our pleasure and our fun with an extra screen (most of us are dedicated multi-monitor users on the desktop side) the reality turned out to be awkward and at times downright frustrating. The multi-tasking possibilities and custom apps were overshadowed by hardware that simply wasn't up to the task. There's no reason that the idea couldn't work, and we'd love to see another try. By someone else. Anyone else. Preferably a long time from now.

4. T-Mobile Springboard

The Springboard, T-Mobile's rebranded version of the Huawei MediaPad, is a study in how bad software can ruin great hardware . And it is great - a dual-core processor, 720p screen and HSPA+ connection running Honeycomb on an aluminum-clad 7-inch body makes for one of the most solid tablets in its class. But meddling with the software (we suspect T-Mobile) makes it sluggish, crash-prone, and just plain frustrating to use. The decision to block the video section of the Android Market seems to have had multiple detrimental effects. On more than one occasion, we found Honeycomb apps that just wouldn't show up, despite the fact that the SpringBoard is running Android 3.2.

3. Motorola DROID BIONIC

Oh, BIONIC, we had such hopes for you. As Motorola's first Verizon 4G LTE phone, and the first to carry the storied DROID name with LTE, the BIONIC had a lot riding on its shoulders. But a redesign that did nothing for its chunky body, a long-delayed release and multiple recurring bugs soured what was supposed to be a star-studded release. The BIONIC was announced at CES 2011 (almost an entire year ago!) but was delayed until September. Add to that the almost instant buyers remorse that new owners felt after the svelte DROID RAZR was released just a month or so later, and you get what's easily the worst superphone release of the year.

2. LG G2X

The "T-Mobile G2X by LG", a rebranded version of the Optimus 2X, looked pretty good when it was first released. A dual-core phone (a big deal early this year) with a big screen and vanilla Android? What's not to love? A lot, as it turned out - the more we used the G2X, the more we came to loathe it. The problems with extended use went way beyond the minor bugs and foibles you'd expect from a new device. Massive screen bleeding, unexplained reboots accompanied by a maddening BEEP (not a great experience at three in the morning) and a confusing, protracted Gingerbread update makes the G2X one of the most frustrating high-end phones out there.

1. Samsung Dart

We hate the Samsung Dart. If you didn't get that the first time around, let us reiterate it: we hate the Samsung Dart. The low-power, low-expectation "smart" phone hardware is decent enough, but the one thing we really can't stand is the tiny 3.14-inch, 320x240 display. It's so dark and low-resolution that using the phone for more than a few moments at a time is headache-inducing. The build quality is actually okay, but bare-bones software that's still encumbered by TouchWiz makes for a achingly slow user experience. Appropriately, we'd be completely comfortable hurling the Samsung Dart at the nearest wall.

Now that a year's worth of ranting is over with and the healing can begin, let's get it off to a good start. Without further ado, Android Community's pics for the best phones and tablets of 2011:

5. HTC Sensation 4G

The first of HTC's dual-core phones is also one of its best, and a great pic for T-Mobile's network. HTC's typically awesome build quality is highlighted by some remarkable performance, and though we always prefer clean Android, HTC Sense doesn't drag down the user experience thanks to high-end internals. Gingerbread was thankfully included at launch, which was far from a sure thing in June. A new 8 megapixel camera beats out the other HTC phone cameras on the market, at least until the Amaze 4G came along. One of the first 4.3-inch QHD screens rounds out an excellent package that should please just about anybody.

4. Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9

The Galaxy Tab series of tablets is solid through and through, but one model stands out: the 8.9-inch version. It keeps all the charm of the original Galaxy Tab 10.1, including a razor thin profile and a 1280x800 screen, but manages to find a size that (to us at least) is the perfect middle ground between size and portability. A Tegra 2 processor and 1GB of RAM make for a snappy Honeycomb experience, even with TouchWiz running on top of it. Sure, it's not as expandable as other tablets, but the overall performance is excellent. If you want a mobile connection, AT&T's got an LTE-flavored version... for some extra cash and a 2-year contract.

3. Samsung Galaxy Nexus

You knew this one was coming. The first Ice Cream Sandwich device has earned a spot on this list, because Android 4.0 really is that good. A gigantic Super AMOLED screen and solid aesthetics make the Galaxy Nexus one of the best choices for any user, and pretty much the only one for dedicated Android modders who are eligible for a new phone. So, why isn't the Gnex higher on this list? Aside from some software-related bugs, the phone that's supposed to be the standard for Android is only available on Verizon in the US at the moment. That's a major bummer for anyone who's happy with their current carrier... or stuck with them for the next two years.

2. Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime

The original Transformer was a great Honeycomb tablet, but the Transformer Prime is nothing short of amazing. Stellar build quality, a fantastic screen and blazing performance thanks to NVIDIA's quad-core Tegra 3 processor make it the best tablet on the market by far. At $500 it's a better deal than most of its competitors while beating every one of them in hardware, fit and finish and software performance, and that's only likely to continue when Asus delivers its promised Ice Cream Sandwich update. And if you're in the mood to get some work done, you can always attach the external keyboard for some good old-fashioned QWERTY input. Tegra 3 will be popping up in a lot of hardware next year, but for 2011, the Transformer Prime just can't be beat.

1. Samsung Galaxy S II

The Galaxy S II, in all its variants, isn't the fastest phone around. It isn't the thinnest or the biggest, and it doesn't run the latest software. The international version is almost six months old. But it still stands out as the best all-around Android device available today. Reliable performance, stellar build quality, an amazing Super AMOLED 4.3-inch screen (or 4.52-inch despite its relatively low resolution) and great battery life make it an excellent choice for almost any new buyer, and 16GB of storage and a great 8MP camera round out the package. The GSII is available on three out of the four major US carriers, plus an unlocked version, and AT&T has the excellent Skyrocket 4G LTE variant. No matter which flavor you choose, the Galaxy S II is a worthy phone for any Android user, or just about anyone else.

If you've got some extra time while you're recuperating from your hangover on Sunday, be sure to check out our Yearly Wrap Up. Feel free to leave angry responses in the comments section, and Happy New Year!


Recent Stories

  • anonymous

     ASIANS CAN ACTUALLY READ MINDS!!!!!!!!!!!!
    they can hear and see what your visually thinking
    this is the complete total truth

    The reason a lot of Asians have completely expressionless faces, only associate with Asians and don’t associate with non Asians that much, and are very unfriendly in general is to avoid accidentally revealing that they can read minds. If all over a billion Asians where to show facial expressions all the time just as much as non Asians, associate with non Asians much more, and be much more friendly and talkative, then a lot of them might accidentally reveal that they can read minds by accidentally showing a facial expression or dirty look when someone thinks, or visually pictures something in their mind they don’t like, find astonishing, or funny etc because those people might see that and and really wonder what that was that just happened there and see the connection, if they all associated with non Asians a lot more then there would be a lot more people around for them to accidentally show facial expressions when those people think things they don’t like etc, so they only associate with Asians so there won’t be anyone around for them to see that and have any accidents happen in the first place.

    Think about it, it’s not normal how a lot of them act, it’s not normal human behavior! and the entire way they act is all to hid their mind reading abilities, it makes perfect sense to do all of that to hide that they can read minds, because all of that is the perfect way to do it!
    Every single Asian alive is hiding their mind reading abilities, they will lie about having mind reading abilities forever!!!!
    Because they value hiding their mind reading abilities more then their own lives! 
    That’s why nobody knows about it!

    Try thinking, best yet visually picturing in your mind something absolutely crazy as you possibly can when you are around Asians, and try looking for Asians who give people particular looks, especially dirty looks for what appears to be for completely no reason, that is them giving people looks when they hear and visually see someone thinking something they don’t like, find astonishing, or funny etc.
    It still happens spite a large percentage of Asians having completely expressionless faces all the time, it would just happen a lot more if none of them had completely expressionless faces all the time, it’s still not uncommon!

    I know this sounds crazy, impossible and completely unbelievable, BUT IT ISN’T CRAZY WHEN ITS TRUE

    The reason you think this truly is crazy, impossible, and unbelievable is because our society as propagandized us into believing that nothing extra ordinary is real, and that it is impossible that people can read minds, and that it is crazy to think that it’s true that people can read minds, all just to cover up that Asians can read minds! who says that can’t exist? the people who have mind reading abilities who are trying to cover it up!

    You have to spread the message!!!!!
    The world has to know about this!!!!!

    • Haha

      Say Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat !!!

  • Chriscrisis81

    The sensation over the rezound?! Are you Fucking retarded???

  • http://twitter.com/adrian_e Adrian Edwards

    Despite being a top seller for T-Mo the Sensation does NOT belong on the top list.

    • Rhalm24

      Yes the sensation does need to be on the list its a price of SHIT but anything made by HTC is a piece of SHIT

  • http://profiles.google.com/bogorad bogorad

    What are you smoking, guys?! Choosing an OLDER GENERATION model over the latest and the greatest one! Galaxy sII WAS the best phone, before Galaxy Note came out. Now it’s Galaxy Nexus, no question. And you CAN buy it (full-price certainly) from Europe.

    • Ronaldo

      Melhores de 2011:
      Sansung Galaxy S2
      Motorola Droid Razr
      Nokia N9
      Sony Ericsson Arc
      Sansung Galaxy Nexus
      Sansung Galaxy Note

  • Tfay412

    I think the worst Android Phone of 2011 was the Thunderbolt by far. I don’t know why that didn’t make the list.

  • Anonymous

    Let’s get the facts correct.  The Droid Bionic launched Sept 8th.  The Droid Razr launched Nov 11th.  So the Droid Razr was not “released just a month later” as you indicated.  It was actually a little over 2 months.  I do agree with you that the releases were too close together especially for devices with very similar specifications. 

  • Anonymous

    Hmmm…Let me get this straight regarding the G2X…In April your review told everyone to go out and buy it and now it’s one of the worst? So basically you’re saying that your reviews should be ignored and you have very little credibility. I’m sticking with CNET for my review source on all tech gadgets.

    • Ward Anderson

      That’s what they do here. And ban mods that have been here since Day 1. *cough* Me *cough* 

  • john

    The G2x should not be on the “worst” list! Having owned the device since July, I have experienced the screen freezing and having to pull the battery to get it to work. Only happened 3 time in 6 months. Hardly enough to call it troublesome. As far as the “BEEP”, this is the first time I have even heard of such a thing. I know that there are other owners that have gone through these frustrating issues, and I personally believe they can be resolved by the user. I have found that not using the charger that came with the phone and shutting it down for 5 minutes a day completely rid my phone of those bugs. All in all, the a HTC Thunderbolt should take this phones spot on the list and the G2x should be in the HTC Sensation’s spot. The G2x is fast, perfect screen size IMHO, plays games smoothly, great call quality, and vanilla android! What’s not to love about it!?!

    • Chriscrisis81

      No. The rezound should be in the sensations spot. Clearly the runner up to the. G next. Which. Should have been number one. These guys have lost all credibility with this garbage post.

    • http://twitter.com/VegasWill Will Paccione

      Gotta agree with you here. I love my G2x. No screen bleed here. No beeps either. Good battery life, fast, still love it. My phone functioned great before I put Cyanogen on it. I upgraded to Gingerbread with Cyanogen mainly b/c they beat LG to it (w/ nightlies).

  • http://profiles.google.com/mrstrat Randall Ainsworth

    The G2X isn’t that bad of a phone. The problem is LG’s crappy software. If you root it, it will work as advertised.

    • Sam Liedtke

      “If you root it, it will work as advertised.”

      ._.

  • Zephyrzypher

    You have to think the samsung dart is horrible because you guys want huge, top notch phones. For a first phone teenager that might be the cool thing to have! The writers here overreact

    • http://www.androidcommunity.com Cory Gunther

      While we agree not all people need a powerhouse device and the Dart had a nice design, even for a cheap phone the display and overall performance was terrible. It gave me a headache just looking at it. The display was extremely cheap

  • inchworm

    The Bionic??? One of the year’s worst devices?? What are you guys smoking?

    • http://www.facebook.com/rcasmus Bob Asmus

      I agree with you. What were they smoking? I have the Rezound and it didn’t even make the list! First true hd display screen and the fastest processor on the market!

      • The_Xander_Crews

        The Rezound is arguably the best Android phone right now, and it’s been out for months. Global capabilities, better screen than an iPhone, fast fast phone. With the extended battery, the Rezound is hands down in the top 2 or 3 Android phones out there, RIGHT NOW.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000795483115 Navie Devdas Sharma

    WHERE THE FUCK IS THE RAZR?!?

    • Toyopri

      no need to be rude!

  • Chris

    I have to totally disagree with the Sensation!  I own one and have since June, I barely use it.  Every time I play a game, HTC Sense reloads when I quit, which takes 20-30 seconds.  Every time I surf the web…Sense reloads when I quit.  Almost every time I read Google Reader….Sense reloads.  Most of the time I check Facebook…Sense reloads.  The most free RAM I have EVER seen on my phone was 110mb and that was with nothing running.  I actually had my Sensation replaced after the first 2 weeks because I thought I had a defective one, but the new one performs the same way.  768mb of RAM on the Sensation was a STUPID idea, it’s the only Sense 3.0 device with less than 1gb of RAM and it shows it by having by far the worst performance.  Oh yeah, and the screen goes up to max brightness every time I use the camera, despite the last software update that was supposed to “fix” the problem.  I’ve never had a product with more bugs or problems.  The Sensation has almost made me want to go to WP7 or iOS, but not quite.

    • http://www.facebook.com/philio Phil Bayfield

      Free memory is unused memory, that’s not how Android works.

      • Chris

        Yes, I’m aware of that.  However, HTC Sense, being the home screen, needs to be persistent in memory if they are going to load a phone with such a small amount of RAM.  HTC treats sense as a normal Android app, allowing the OS to kill it when it runs low on memory like it does a normal app and that is idiotic.  You shouldn’t have to wait 20-40 seconds for your phone to soft reset every time you exit an app that you’ve used for more than 2 minutes.  If I actually use my phone all day, I end up waiting for Sense to reload 15-30 times per day depending how much I do with it.  That is totally unacceptable.  I’m not blaming Android, I’m blaming HTC and their design of Sense 3.0.

  • http://twitter.com/mykie242 mykie Gunderson

    I’m not sure why the Transformer Prime got so high up on the list, seems like the OG Transformer has more staying power.

    Transformer Prime also has its encrypted and locked bootloader, which is pretty baffling.  I have a feeling that the Prime will be regarded as one of the first and worst Tegra 3 products in a few months.

  • jodix

    I think Motorola Atrix and Photon 4G deserves to be on that list.

    • http://twitter.com/white_shadow001 Zach White

      Yea those and the RAZR, sgt 10.1, and og transformer

  • Westlake Lad

    This is all nonsense.  They are missing the Razr and Rezound in the top 5.  Let me guess who pays most for advertising on this site.  hmmmm……

  • DBautista, Victorville

    The SGS2 is the most amazing phone! Ditched the iphone once I got ahold of this! Rooted it! Go Launcher, Go Locker! Nice battery life! But with long battery life comes long charge time. Super Amoled plus is amazing!

    • Anonymous

      HTC SENSATION ON THE 5 ANDROIDS OF 2011?hahahahaha pfft I stopped reading after that. Although I think just about everyone agrees about the SGSII getting top.

  • Leontang

    Sensation but not Amaze

  • Edwin M

    I don’t agree too much with the Bionic as a bad device. I would think the Thunderbolt and Charger were far worse than the Bionic.The Thunderbolt with more bugs than a seedy manhattan mattress and the Charge with it still sporting Froyo until recently are much worse phones.

  • Valerie

    What about Galaxy Note? I think it should be in the top 5 best phone!

    • hillaryU

      ASIANS CAN ACTUALLY READ MINDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      they can hear and see what your visually thinking

      The reason a lot of Asians have completely expressionless faces, segregate from everybody else-only associate with Asians and don’t associate with non Asians that much, and are very unfriendly in general is to avoid accidentally revealing that they can read minds. If all over a billion Asians where to show facial expressions all the time just as much as non Asians, integrate and associate with non Asians much more, and be much more friendly and talkative, then a lot of them might accidentally reveal that they can read minds by accidentally showing a facial expression or dirty look when someone thinks, or visually pictures something in their mind they don’t like, find astonishing, or funny etc because those people might see that and and really wonder what that was that just happened there and see the connection, and they might accidentally say something similar to what the person was just thinking and going to say. If they all associated with non Asians a lot more then there would be a lot more people around for them to accidentally show facial expressions when those people think things they don’t like etc, so they segregate and only associate with Asians so there won’t be anyone around for them to see that and have any accidents happen in the first place.

      Think about it, it’s not normal how a lot of them act, it’s not normal human behavior! and the entire way they act is all to hide their mind reading abilities, it makes perfect sense to do all of that to hide that they can read minds, because all of that is the perfect way to do it!
      Every single Asian alive is hiding their mind reading abilities, they don’t want ANYBODY to know that they can read minds, they will always deny that they can read minds, they will lie about having mind reading abilities forever!!!!
      Because they value hiding their mind reading abilities more then their own lives!
      That’s why nobody knows about it!

      Try thinking, best yet visually picturing in your mind something absolutely crazy as you possibly can when you are around Asians, and try looking for Asians who give people particular looks, especially dirty looks for what appears to be for completely no reason, that is them giving people looks when they hear and visually see someone thinking something they don’t like, find astonishing, or funny etc.
      It still happens despite a large percentage of Asians having completely expressionless faces all the time, it would just happen a lot more if none of them had completely expressionless faces all the time, it’s still not uncommon!

      I know this may sound crazy, impossible and unbelievable, BUT IT ISN’T CRAZY WHEN ITS TRUE

      You have to spread the message!!!!!!
      The world has to know about this!!!!!!

  • Spindr768

    I beg to differ , I have a Droid Bionic , It’s a marvelous device !!!!

  • weiner

    Had a lg g2x. What a pos. Only prob with Sensation: Wont play Sleepy Jack or Cordy.

  • http://www.ringcentral.com/phone-system/index.html phone system

    True, Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 and Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime are the best Android devices, i can say that because i am currently using these devices and these two really suits my business needs.

    • Jason100

      ASIANS CAN ACTUALLY READ MINDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      they can hear, and see what your visually thinking

      The reason a lot of Asians have completely expressionless faces, segregate from everybody else-only associate with Asians and don’t associate with non Asians that much, and are very unfriendly in general is to avoid accidentally revealing that they can read minds. If all over a billion Asians where to show facial expressions all the time just as much as non Asians, integrate and associate with non Asians much more, and be much more friendly and talkative, then a lot of them might accidentally reveal that they can read minds by accidentally showing a facial expression or dirty look when someone thinks, or visually pictures something in their mind they don’t like, find astonishing, or funny etc because those people might see that and and really wonder what that was that just happened there and see the connection, and they might accidentally say something similar to what the person was just thinking and going to say. If they all associated with non Asians a lot more then there would be a lot more people around for them to accidentally show facial expressions when those people think things they don’t like etc, so they segregate and only associate with Asians so there won’t be anyone around for them to see that and have any accidents happen in the first place.

      Think about it, it’s not normal how a lot of them act, it’s not normal human behavior! and the entire way they act is all to hide their mind reading abilities, it makes perfect sense to do all of that to hide that they can read minds, because all of that is the perfect way to do it!
      Every single Asian alive is hiding their mind reading abilities, they don’t want anybody to know that they can read minds, they will always deny that they can read minds, they will lie about having mind reading abilities forever!!!
      Because they value hiding their mind reading abilities more then their own lives!
      That’s why nobody knows about it!

      Try thinking, best yet visually picturing in your mind something absolutely crazy as you possibly can when you are around Asians, and try looking for Asians who give people particular looks, especially dirty looks for what appears to be for completely no reason, that is them giving people looks when they hear and visually see someone thinking something they don’t like, find astonishing, or funny etc.
      It still happens despite a large percentage of Asians having completely expressionless faces all the time, it would just happen a lot more if none of them had completely expressionless faces all the time, it’s still not uncommon!

      I know this may sound crazy, impossible and unbelievable, BUT IT ISN’T CRAZY WHEN ITS TRUE

      You have to spread the message!!!!!!!!
      The world has to know about this!!!!!!!!

      • copypastanator

        I rofl’d

  • Chaselyth

    I would have to disagree with samsung dart as the worst (im on it right now) I think phones like the lg optimus net are worse (if ur wondering it is a phone from net10, a prepaid service)

  • http://www.facebook.com/rcasmus Bob Asmus

    Where is the Rezound? 1.5 ghz processor, 720p display, beats audio, beats headphones. I agree with another commenter…..what were you guys smoking?

  • nitpicker

    As much as I love my Sensation, it has a few thing that truly annoy me. I don’t like having to ‘gut’ the phone to change batteries. You also have to dust off the hidden earpiece each time you open it. I think it’s one reason I have dust under my screen. Having to handle, and put, two pieces back together can be precarious. I’ve dropped the ‘guts’ several times while changing batteries. Thankfully there’s Gorilla Glass!!! My Sensation has hit the tile floor face down several times without a crack, chip or scratch. I wouldn’t recommend a Sensation, or Amaze it’s sister, to anyone. I’m waiting for the Samsung Galaxy S III.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cwduvall Christopher Duvall

    Sure I’m slow but you’re crazy. I bought the $300 Nexus only to return it and buy the Bionic! The Bionic is by far better.