I am an unabashed gadget nerd, especially when it comes to cell phones.  This past year has been a whirlwind of advances in hardware and software available to the consumer.  With so many new smartphones coming out, how is the novice to choose?  Well mindcricket is here to help… with Android, anyway.

Yes, Android; not “Droid”.  “Droid” is a marketing term created by Verizon Wireless and if you refer to my Nexus One as a “Droid” I will slap you (unless you’re bigger than me).  Android is a Linux-based operating system for mobile devices developed by Google.  We could spend all day on the technological jargon, but suffice to say it’s an open and free system for any handset maker (e.g. HTC, Motorola) to use and build upon.  What started as a few whispers among geeks with the lowly T-Mobile G1 less than two years ago has now become the fastest growing smartphone platform on the planet thanks to the many contributions of major manufacturers and thousands of talented developers.

Why Android over the iPhone?  This kind of debate could rage on forever, but I prefer Android personally because you can constantly tinker with it the way you could with an old car.  The customizations are endless with widgets, home replacements, non-Market apps, and custom ROMs.  Isn’t it in our blood as men to tinker with things?

OK that’s all fine and great, but what about the phones?  There are plenty already released and several more coming soon on every major US carrier.  Since this is a website for MEN, I’m going to cut right to the chase:  Don’t skimp on specs.  What does that mean?  It means don’t buy a little girl’s phone just because it’s cheaper, buy the top dog available. Things move fast and with 2-year contracts being the norm, you don’t want to be left behind.  I don’t care what your wife says.  If she objects, just get her the same phone and she’ll have her face buried in it in no time  (seriously, my girlfriend used to badger me all the time, but since Blackberry entered her life she never questions my phone obsession).  Bottom line – these aren’t just phones anymore, they’re mini laptops, capable of practically anything you need – online banking, navigation, e-books, and the Onion.

So without further ado, here are the top dogs available and the main specs for each (pics are in order):

– The original Motorola Droid is the only high-end Android with a keyboard currently available.  Even though it’s quickly becoming outdated, I can still recommend it based on its dedicated GPU and hack-ability, which will prolong its usable life through custom ROMs (to be explained in a later article).

– The Google Nexus One is my current phone and a Android fan-boi favorite.  It comes straight from the mothership at google.com/phone, which means it’s first for updates, the most recent of which is Android 2.2 (aka, Froyo).  It is also extremely hack-able, thanks to Google’s hand in its manufacturing.

– The Motorola Droid X was just released today, July 15.  It has an immense screen, HDMI-out, 8 megapixel camera, and Moto’s excellent build quality.  Unfortunately it is unlikely to be hack-able in the near future, but new owners shouldn’t worry too much about that.

– The Samsung Vibrant was also released today, July 15.  It features Samsung’s new Super AMOLED screen, which offers amazing colors and depth, and the top GPU available today, the PowerVR SGX540, which makes it an excellent gaming device.  It is also easily hacked (thanks, Sammy).


– The HTC EVO 4G is Sprint’s new flagship phone.  It has a giant screen, HDMI-out, 8 megapixel camera, and HTC’s very popular user interface, HTC Sense.  So far it has proven to be hack-able, but there have been concerns about its strange frames-per-second cap.

– The Droid Incredible is very similar in form and feel as the Nexus One, but features an 8 megapixel shooter and HTC’s Sense interface.  Unfortunately, this fine piece of hardware has been on backorder for months due to screen supply shortages, meaning very few have made it into the wild.   Once it’s back in stock, it is a worthy competitor to the Droid X for Verizon subscribers who want a smaller package and HTC’s hack-ability.

And finally, here are some devices coming up on the horizon (pics are in order):

– The Samsungs, along the the currently available Vibrant, are all part of the Galaxy S family.  Aside from the keyboard on Sprint’s Epic 4G, they are essentially the same phones.  They all have Samsung’s TouchWiz user interface, which is alarmingly similar to the iPhone’s look (barf).  Fortunately the customization ability of Android allows you to install a new interface directly from the Market and forget TouchWiz ever existed.  They all also have video-out capabilities, but only at 480i as opposed to the 720p HDMI on the Droid X and EVO 4G

– The Droid 2 is a refresh of the original Droid with an upgraded processor, more RAM, and better keyboard that ditches the directional pad.   Unfortunately, it may have the same hack-ability problems as the Droid X.

– The Motoroi looks to be very similar to the original Droid, only no keyboard.

– The HTC Vision is eagerly awaited as the high-end keyboard T-mobile users have been clamoring for.  It is also rumored to be the first HSPA+ capable handset, which can boast speeds up to 21mbps.

Even more confused now?  You really can’t go wrong with any of these devices, so the choice should come down to which carrier fits your coverage needs the best and whether you want certain features like a keyboard, large screen, or video-out.  Feel free to ask questions in the comments and I’ll be glad to answer as best I can.