My Quest For The Perfect Smartphone

Now that my Apple and Google experiments have been huge successes, I thought I’d try an Android phone one more time.  I like my iPhone 4, but it’s pretty weak with all the Google apps.  Specifically, I badly want better contact integration, clean email sync, and Google voice.  Plus, AT&T still blows in Boulder.

Any suggestions out there for the “best Android out there today.”  I was using a Sprint EVO for a while (and liked it a lot) until it was stolen by my assistant Kelly.  So, I open to any choice – suggest away.

  • HTC Droid Incredible (VZW) is great if you want a 3.5" screen. It's now been updated to Android 2.2 as well. If you want a 4.3" screen I hear the Droid X or Droid 2 (both on VZW) are both good.

  • Joe

    I'm still waiting for the perfect phone too, but my next one might be the Droid "Pro" which is set to appear quite soon on Verizon. It's apparently just the Droid 2 but it has a GSM radio as well, so you can take advantage of Verizon's very reasonable global data roaming plans. (And Verizon is a necessity for me in LA. It's the difference between 4-5 bars and no coverage.)

  • I have been using the Nexus1, and it seems to work quite well, both for voice/apps/E-Mail/etc… Google was giving them away to Devs. You might want to try it if you haven't.

    Also, remind me to connect you to the Swype guys. Their app works fine on the N1

    • Buzz – the Nexus1 is so yesterday! I'm thinking DroidX. And – I love love love Swype. They are on my list of companies I hope I regret not investing in.

      • Well, the one BIG advantage of the Nexus One is that Google controls the software updates vs. the carriers. Maybe not a big deal if you plan to root your device, but if not then you'll surely receive the next versions of Android before others if you have the N1

  • Perhaps you should try Sony's Xperia Mini 10 pro, it is very small and has a Blackberry-type keyboard

  • If you have reasonable Verizon coverage in your area, the Droid X is the top contender at the moment of all the Android phones on the market.

    • Thanks – that's where I'm leaning right now.

      • Droid X + VZW is the best combination at the moment.

      • I've been carrying an Incredible for about 2 months and I'm now on my THIRD phone. I love the device but 2 died when their screens went bad. (Moisture was getting under the screen due to using a during runs (but Phubby claims no one else has had this problem.)) A good friend has been carrying the DroidX and LOVES it. LOVES the screen size (50%+ larger?) and is even considering forgoing a Kindle because the reading experience is so good on the DroidX. Also carrying a brand new Blackberry Bold. Slower and weaker than the old Bold9000. Blackberry is suddenly irrelevant. Never thought I'd hear myself utter those words…

        • Ugh. "foregoing". I hate exposing my illiteracy.

          • legaltinder

            Dude. "foregoing": that which went before. "forgo": to sacrifice or do without. So your initial instinct was literate, and in the future you may want to forgo edits to the foregoing.

  • Hey Brad, I use the Incredible but I wouldn't recommend it because the HTC Sense skin adds an unnecessary layer to the Google integration. It takes an extra step to add contacts to Gmail from your phone and the Picasa integration isn't as great as Droid 1 and Nexus One. Droid X is slightly too large for me. Web browsing is great, but I'd prefer the sleek look and feel of something the size of the Incredible.

    This is where the Samsung Galaxy S comes in:

    I've only seen the Captivate in person and let me tell you, it's awesome. The screen is larger than the Incredible, yet the size of the phone is about the same, so you get the best of both worlds. The Fascinate is Verizon's version and I would suggest looking at that.

  • You must be looking for THIS!

  • Great call Brad! Looks like from the comments, DroidX+VZW is the way to go. I live overseas so I roll with the N1, which I believe has a small, probably not-significant-for-most, advantage over others being the “vanilla version” of Android, the way Google intended it to be- sans manufacturer/carrier “enhancements”. Of course it wouldn’t be too difficult to flash a DroidX with a std release. Also, I think the N1 has the best, most comfortable HW form-factor out there. The Droids are great, but I find them a little clunky and heavy.

  • Steve Rudolph

    Brad, wait to see what the Samsung phone from Verizon looks like. Release date at the end of this week. As noted, the Verizon version is called the Fascinate.

  • ash in the driveway

    Okay Feld, the mountain communities of Boulder are basically going up in flame.

    Where are you and all of your cutting edge high tech visionaries who so loudly proclaim how much you love this town and it's unique spirit? That town needs the help of people like you, with plentiful resources at your disposal, right now. No 'smart phone' is required

    • Dear "Ash In The Driveway" – I wish you had the courage not to hide behind an anonymous post name. There are numerous folks in Boulder working hard on keeping everyone posted via Twitter on #boulderfire. Amy and I are out of town today, but we'll do whatever we can to help. Oh – and we've been evacuated from our house in the mountains twice over the last decade, with one fire actually coming with 200 yards of our house so we know the distress from fire extremely well.

    • The companies started by those visionaries, and the people using the tools they provide are doing an excellent job keeping people up to date on the situation. The information available on Twitter and in the comments section of the Daily Camera's main article (which itself is nowhere near as up to date as the comments) are the best sources of information out there for people trying to figure out what's going on.

      Aside from that, there's not a whole lot that any private individual can do at this point.

  • I got a Samsung Epic from Sprint, and really enjoy it. I find myself using it more often and my iphone 4 less often.

  • here's the perfect phone for me.

    1. Verizon or Sprint iPhone (waiting for hell to freeze over).

    2. Or I want a Droid X but the size of the Incredible and with a dual GSM/CDMA radio. I like the Droid look and build quality but Droid X is too big for me. The Incredible is ugly and feels cheap in my humble opinion. And neither can roam overseas.

  • NickN

    Biggest thing is to get a device that already runs Android 2.2 or is about to be upgraded to 2.2. The differences between 2.1 and 1.6 are big, but the improvements made in 2.2 are enormous. The JIT compiler is many times faster, so any/all Java apps run faster. The UI has some nice enhancements. The mobile hotspot/tethering is awesome (unless your carrier blocks it) and I believe the Exchange integration is (natively) much better.

    I’m running a Nexus One with 2.2 and have been very happy with it. I second the vote for the SE X10 Mini Pro, but as a second phone, not a primary device. It’s a great form factor and very functional. Unfortunately it’s running 1.6 and will finally get 2.1 later this month. No word on 2.2.

    I’ve heard good things about the DroidX. Just can’t face being on a non-GSM device.

    Last piece of advice with any of the big touchscreen devices… Get yourself a copy of JuiceDefender (paid version). It does a great job of optimizing battery life.

  • Bill Camp

    I just got the Samsung Epic. I am still learning it, but so far it is great. I like the option of having a keyboard, touch screen, Swype and voice to send messages and email.

  • I don't know how you feel about the various skins these carriers have laid on top of Android (SenseUI is the only one which I prefer so far), but the upcoming TMobile G2 (basically a Nexus One with a hardware keyboard and an optical trackpad) is the phone I've been eying lately. My decision is the result of getting great rates with TMo so I tend to stick with them. The G2 will have Android 2.2 and it has the stock Google Experience so you can expect swift updates as they are released. If I wasn't restricted to TMo, I really like the Verizon Incredible (short of its flashy trim).

    Not sure what sort of contact integration you're looking for as this aspect is pretty much on the shoulders of 3rd party devs to add value here. I personally haven't found a nice way to handle this universally with my Android phone respectfully playing nice with my other resources. This has bothered me to the point that I'm trying to solve this problem myself. I'd be curious to hear how you currently handle managing your contacts.

    Regarding iPhone v. Android, I can really appreciate Apple's approach with the iPhone and I know you're new to Apple's overall computing philosophy but I can't justify the death grip they hold over the app store for the sake of preserving their experience. I've been VERY happy with Android.

  • Brandon

    I just left the iPhone 4 – for the Samsung Captivate. The phone has been awesome so far. The screen is incredible, Swype is what I have been looking for as an answer to my disliking of typing on a touch screen and the phone is incredibly light… Transferring my contacts from the iPhone to Google was easy and the synch was effortless. With the iOS 4.1 and 4.2 releases coming, I am wondering if my switch was too premature… Oh well, I am still really impressed with the Captivate and the overall experience of the phone… I guess, I am captivated? 🙂

  • mikeshlz

    I have the Samsung Galaxy S, in a TMobile Vibrant model. (lowest monthly when you prepay the device)

    The GPS needs a (software?) revision to meet industry standard, the battery life is a bit short, and the big OS update hasn't happened yet. Other than that, it's the best for me. Viva Swype!!

  • Mike Greczyn

    My wife uses the ATT version of the Samsung Fascinate (i.e. the Captivate). For someone who swore she didn't really need a device like that before she got it, she sure seems to "need" it a whole lot now. We went through something similar a couple of years ago when I talked her into a full-QWERTY phone, it seems to be a recurring theme. But I digress. Back to the Captivate, I came down with a severe case of phone envy the instant she fired that bad boy up. Makes my iPhone 3GS look like that thing Gordon Gecko gets back in his personal effects when he gets out of the big house in the new Wall Street sequel. Maybe not that bad, but still.

  • I will be moving to the Denver-Boulder-Golden triangle soon. I am actually in Golden right now checking out the town. And AT&T does blow around here. My contract is up in November, and I am holding out for a Verizon iPhone.

  • The first question is the network. There are big differences in coverage and prices. Personally, I prefer Tmo and they have the better coverage in Denver/Boulder. But you travel extensively and might prefer Verizon which has better nationwide coverage. The Sprint is the current speed champ and 4G is coming to Denver.

    Sprint: Go back to the HTC Evo
    Verizon: Motorola Droid-X
    Tmobile: Samsung Vibrant

    Personally, I am thinking of switching back from Verizon to Tmo for the better local coverage and it is almost half the price per month. Verizon also pisses me off with their games that always cost me $. Also: Note Verizon has the highest fee for early termination.

    I can drive from Boulder to Winter Park on Tmo without dropping a call (can't on V), but around Winter Park Verizon has better coverage thanks to the beautiful Verizon Pine by the Ski Patrol shack that seems impervious to the beetles.

  • Hi Brad,

    I would say Samsung's Galaxy S model (T-Mobile: Vibrant, AT&T: Captivate, Verizon: Fascinate, Sprint: Epic 4G).

    I've tried out HTC's Evo4G for a week and prefer Samsung's Galaxy S. The user interface is smooth, so it was easy to switch from my iPhone to this Android model. The Super AMOLED screen is beautiful, which is slightly less sharper than iPhone4. But the camera quality seems to be better than anything I've seen with an iPhone.

    Also I don't know if it's just the Android software and/or Samsung's hardware, but accessing YouTube was 10x faster than I ever experienced on my iPhone (yes, same wireless carrier). And of course the Gmail and other Google integration was better.

  • Randy Terbush

    Loving my new Sprint Epic. It is the smart phone I have been waiting years for…

    Here is list of all of the cool apps I am playing with:

  • Kirk

    The nice thing about the Android ecosystem is that there are really good devices on all the carriers now. For the last few years people have had to put up with AT&T because the iPhone was so much better than anything else out there. Not the case anymore. I think we're back to the old model of "choose the carrier that works best for you, then choose a phone". Personally I'd decide which carrier provides the best service in the areas you spend the most time and if that carrier is Verizon then I'd suggest the Droid X and if it's Sprint then I'd go with the EVO or the Epic (if you want a physical keyboard).

  • smurchie

    I tried to buy an HTC Desire today, but apparently all sold out in Bratislava (at least through O2, which has the only no-contract plan in Slovakia). Not sure if this one is available in the States yet, but the European reviews on it are rocking.

  • Brad, I have had four Droids – including a Sprint EVO from June 6 until two weeks ago – but now I’m happy as a camper back on the iPhone 4. Of course, the AT&T problem in Boulder can’t be changed – but using Google Voice on the iPhone 4 is one way around it.

    Here’s my perspective on the other things you listed:

    >>Specifically, I badly want better contact integration, clean email sync, and Google voice.

    #1 contact integration. I use Google Contacts and keep it open in it’s own tab, one to the right of GMail. After installing Google Sync on the iPhone, my GMail contacts sync up perfectly from the web, into my iPhone 4’s “Contacts” application. When i add a contact into my GMail address book (great, with the enhanced fields/functionality/UI), it is immediately, automatically sync’d onto my iPhone. And vice-versa, right into my GMail contacts online. I do not use the OS X Address Book application.

    #2 clean email sync. My first tab on the desktop is GMail. On the iPhone, I use Google’s mobile GMail client, setup for iMap. Perfectly in sync – always. I have about 400 filters running, and am constantly updating them, so it’s very easy to stay at “Inbox Zero” – usually I can get there at a few long red lights, even with 500+ emails coming at me daily.

    #3 Google voice. The Google voice client runs BEAUTIFULLY on my iPhone 4. I added my iPhone’s phone # into one of the #’s that Google voice rings, and everything is working beautifully. This setup even allowed me to drop my AT&T minutes to their minimum level, as long as I’m careful to limit the time spent on incoming calls to the cell#.

    Other great things about the iPhone 4 that can’t be beat: the new Nike+ $1.99 application that tracks your pace, location, and distance; uploads to Nike+ – without the need for a Nike+ sensor because it uses the built-in GPS. Google Earth, Google News, iGoogle, etc – all run beautifully on that awesome 960px display. Not to mention the terrific CNBC RT application, iPhone-only Red Laser, and the can’t-be-beat GTD application OmniFocus which plays like crazy with iPad OmniFocus, and OS X OmniFocus via wireless sync to MobileME.

    What’s not to like? Except for AT&T. But I prefer doing business via a landline connection, anyway. Good old analog twisted-pair over a circuit-switched TDM network (no VoIP!) can’t be beat for that:)

  • The droid X is definately the way forward, wlth although the battery time is not as good as the iPhone with the new 2.2 Android update it runs flash, big step forward!

  • Jordan

    Seems like the blogosphere HATES that Verizon has forced Samsung to use Bing as the only search engine on the Fascinate, so take that for what it's worth to you.

  • Cluffer

    I have had great sucess over the last 6 weeks with Verizon's Droid X. My primary complaint (which is well documented online) is outlook integration- calendar works great, no contact sync with gmail. I have looked into and am committed to test it out shortly. Early reads are that it will work well, I just worry about sync packages that create duplicates and so on.

    The camera, video, navigation, google sky, etc are all exceptionally easy to work with.

    Battery life is pretty good, but I do find myself using the killapp tool (free recommendation from verizon tech support) frequently.

    I love the keyboard and the voice tools are much better than anything i have every tried.

    I am jealous that my other phone geek buddy is getting the Droid 2 with the keyboard only a few weeks after I got mine without the slide out. I will try to remeber to keep you posted on his experience.

  • I like the Droid X because of the large screen and other features. But I would wait for Android 2.2 to fix the camera button and ring volume problems. If you like a real keyboard (I don't), go for the Droid 2.

    Marty Cooper
    twitter: martymobile

  • The HTC Incredible has really really impressed me. The only thing I'd ask for is longer battery life, but that's the case with most any smart phone it seems.

  • I love my HTC Incredible on Verizon. Verizon is also the best service in San Diego V 2.2 now has mobile broadband connectivity for up to 5 devices.

  • Jon Strickler

    I've tried Android for the last few weeks. I suspect you'll be frustrated with Android at least until 2.2. Here's my love-hate list: