Types of Android Phonesby Fred Decker
Although pioneering firms such as Blackberry and Apple created and defined the smartphone market, it's the Android operationg system -- with 80 percent worldwide marketshare, in some 2014 estimates -- that's now the dominant player. In large part that's because Android phones offer so much choice, from nearly disposable low-end phones to cutting-edge models that offer computer-like performance. For comparison purposes, the thousands of available Android phones can be loosely categorized into four types.
Entry-level Android phones offer basic functionality, running the OS adequately but without exceptional performance. Leading manufacturers including Samsung, Sony, LG, HTC, Huawei and Motorola all offer inexpensive models for budget-conscious buyers, though most have notable limitations. Their processors are usually slower and less powerful than those in higher-priced phones, and their screens are smaller -- often 4 to 4.5 inches -- and with lower resolution, less brightness and poorer viewing angles. Improved technology and declining costs will make entry-level phones more appealing over time, and phones such as 2014's Moto E from Motorola are surprisingly capable.
The mid-range of the Android market represents a complex and always-changing equation of size, performance and current market price. As with computers, a given year's high-end specs will quickly migrate into the mid-range as new technology comes along. Most of the major phone families, such as Sony's Xperia, Motorola's Moto, Samsung's Galaxy and HTC's Desire series, include a number of mid-range phones. Their processors are less powerful than those in top-of-the-line phones, and their screens and cameras offer lower resolutions. However, for many users these phones represent the best value in the Android marketplace.
Most major players in the Android world have a high-end family of phones designed to compete with the iPhone. These models, including HTC's One family, Motorola's Moto X and the top Samsung Galaxy phones, are essentially mobile computers. They feature powerful quad-core processors, HD-capable screens, excellent audio quality, superb cameras and are usually thinner, lighter and more sturdily built than their lower-cost peers. These are phones for gamers, road-weary professionals and serious tech enthusiasts for whom the phones' features are well worth the added cost.
As the screen size of high-end phones crept up to -- and past -- the 5-inch mark, a new class of phones began to emerge. Blurring the line between large phones and small tablets, the so-called phablets offered tablet-like performance and versatility while remaining small enough to use as a phone, if only just barely. Samsung's Galaxy Note was the pioneer in this category, and the Korean firm remains a leader. However, other players including Huawei, HTC, Sony, LG and computer manufacturer ASUS are also active in this market. Although their bulk makes them impractical for some users, phablets are a good choice for users who would otherwise need to carry both a phone and a separate tablet.
- link TechCrunch: Android Still Growing Market Share by Winning First Time Smartphone Users
- link Tom's Guide: Smartphone Buying Guide 2014
- link The NextWeb: Moto E Review -- The New Standard for Entry-Level Android Smartphones
- link PhoneArena.com: Best Mid-Range Phones
- link PhoneArena.com: Best Android Phones
- link BrightHand.com: Hands-on Roundup of the Top Five Phablets Of the Season
- photo_camera gpointstudio/iStock/Getty Images
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