Android Smartphone Round-Up: December/January Edition

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We took a break from the Android round-up in December because, well, to be honest I was on vacation. But January gave us a few extra smartphones and the holidays are over, so we’re back. What we’ve got for you today leans into more expensive turf, and unfortunately, our favorite Android devices for the past two months are also exclusively at Verizon, so Big Red subscribers should pay attention.

Without further ado, these are our favorite December/January releases of the Android persuasion: The Samsung Galaxy Nexus, the LG Spectrum, and the Motorola Droid RAZR Maxx.

Enjoy!

Samsung Galaxy Nexus

Features:

  • Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
  • Verizon 4G LTE support
  • 4.65-inch 1280×720 Super AMOLED display
  • 5MP rear camera (1080 video capture), 1.3MP front-facing camera (720p video capture)
  • 1.2GHz dual-core processor
  • MSRP: $299.99 with a two-year contract

Pros:

  • Ice Cream Sandwich is a solid step up from Gingerbread
  • That 720p display is huge and beautiful
  • Google Hangouts

Cons:

  • The phone might be a bit too big for one-handed actions
  • Feels a bit plastic-y
  • No pre-loaded Google wallet, but you can download it

If you’re looking for Android, the Galaxy Nexus is where you’ll find it. Ice Cream Sandwich is a joy compared to Gingerbread, and this coming from someone who is quite hard on Android. Of course, the screen on this bad boy is amazing, but as MG points out in his review, sometimes the phone is just too big to perform one-handed actions.

We also expected image quality to be better out of that 5-megapixel rear camera, but it simply can’t compete with the iPhone’s 8-megapixel shooter. (And no, I’m not saying that based on megapixels… Image quality is simply better with the 4S.) But that doesn’t really matter — an Android fan is an Android fan, and this is as good as Android gets.


LG Spectrum

Features:

  • Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread
  • Verizon 4G LTE support
  • 4.5-inch True HD 1280×720 Display
  • 8MP rear camera (1080p video capture), 1.3MP front-facing camera
  • 1.5GHz dual-core processor
  • MSRP: $199.99 with a two-year contract

Pros:

  • Beautiful display
  • Pre-loaded ESPN Sports Center app in HD
  • LG Y is actually a nice custom overlay

Cons:

  • Not a fan of that brushed plastic back panel
  • The silver bezels don’t handle prints well

I was hard on this phone when I first played around with it, and I still maintain that there’s nothing super special about the Spectrum. It’s not like the Rezound with Beats Audio imtegration or the Razr with its anorexic waist line. That said, you really won’t find these kind of specs on an Android phone for just $200. In fact, I’d be so bold as to call it a steal.

I’m also pretty excited about that display. I have yet to put a Super AMOLED Plus up against this 720p True HD display, but I’d say it’s one of the most (if not, the most) stunning displays I saw at CES. Certainly worth consideration, especially if you are a fan of LG phones to begin with.


Motorola Droid Razr Maxx

Features:

  • Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread
  • Verizon 4G LTE support
  • 4.3-inch Super AMOLED advanced 960×540 display
  • 8MP rear camera (1080p video capture), 1.3MP front-facing camera (720p video capture)
  • 1.2GHz dual-core processor
  • MSRP: $299.99 with a two-year contract

Pros:

  • 3300 mAH battery is a big improvement from the Razr
  • Less of a “Moto bump” along the back
  • Bump in storage from 16GB to 32GB

Cons:

  • 1.89mm thicker than its predecessor
  • UI can slow things down a tad

The Droid Razr Maxx is a very special phone. It kills the few things that were wrong with the original Razr — which is an excellent device, mind you — and then doubles the storage, to boot. I was originally bothered with how light the Razr was. It made premium materials feel cheap, but the extra heft and weight on the Razr Maxx really gives this phone a pricey, solid feel.

A Droid Razr update for Android 4.0 leaked out this week, so if you’re comfortable with tinkering than that’s an extra benefit to the Maxx. We’ll have a full review on this phone up very shortly, but from the short time I’ve spent with it thus far I’d say it has the superior hardware in this particular bunch of Android handsets.


It’ll all come down to what matters most to you. If that giant 720p screen excites you, go Galaxy Nexus all the way. The Spectrum, on the other hand, offers up some pretty killer specs at a much more reasonable price, while the Droid Razr Maxx wins in the hardware/design department.