Android phones have never been as impressive as they are today. They have never been as responsive, as slim or as powerful. Their displays have never been more vivid or more stunning. Their data speeds have never been as fast. Competition is now hotter than ever before in the smartphone market and consumers are reaping the benefits. At its core, each and every new smartphone that launches is an engineering feat that simply could not have existed a few short years ago. And yet as amazing as the current crop of smartphones might be, there has probably never been a worse time in Android’s brief but storied history for savvy users to buy a smartphone.
A quick glance through the smartphone catalogs of each of the four major wireless carriers in the United States reveals a terrific array of Android handsets. There is certainly no shortage of gigahertz or gigabytes, and spec sheets in general have become laundry lists of cutting-edge technology. More importantly, of course, this new breed of Google-powered phones offers performance that is far more responsive and fluid than previous generations of handsets. But as impressive as these devices are, right now is a horrible time to buy any of them.
Things are about to get a whole lot better.
For tech savvy smartphone users, committing to a two-year contract is brutal. Mobile technology moves so fast that smartphones can seem outdated just months after they launch. While this trend is bound to continue, the degree to which new generations of Android phones outdo their predecessors will always ebb and flow. Handsets have been improving at a somewhat modest pace for the past year or so, but the next crop of smartphones to hit store shelves will represent a huge leap forward rather than a few short steps.
Two leading smartphone makers, Samsung and HTC, are on the verge of launching next-generation devices that will put today’s high-end handsets to shame. HTC has already unveiled its new One-series phones, and the two high-end models it showed off at Mobile World Congress are game-changers, plain and simple.
The HTC One X is the Taiwan-based company’s flagship smartphone for the first half of 2012, and it features a 1.5GHz quad-core Tegra 3 processor, a 4.6-inch 1,280 x 720-pixel Super LCD 2 display, an 8-megapixel rear camera, a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera for 720p video chats, 1GB of RAM, 32 GB of internal storage, embedded 4G LTE and Sense 4.0 on top of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. All that technology, mind you, is squeezed into a gorgeous 9.27-millimeter-thick unibody polycarbonate case. The U.S. version of this handset will feature a dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor and 16GB of internal storage, but the impact of this “downgrade” on the user experience is negligible — the phone is still lightning fast and beyond smooth.
HTC’s One S is a mid-range smartphone, though the term “mid-range” is used very loosely in this case. The device sports a 4.3-inch qHD AMOLED display, a dual-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor, an amazing 8-megapixel camera, 16GB of internal storage, Sense 4.0 and Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, all packed within an even more slender 7.9-millimeter case made of Micro-Arc Oxidized aluminum.
While Samsung hasn’t yet unveiled its next-generation flagship smartphone, a series of exclusive BGR reports paint a fairly comprehensive picture of the Galaxy S III. To start things off, we can expect the most stunning display ever to be used on a smartphone. This high-definition, 1080p-resolution, 4.8-inch Super AMOLED display will be to smartphones what Apple’s new Retina Display is to tablets. Toss in a 1.5GHz quad-core Samsung Exynos processor, an 8-megapixel rear camera, a 2-megapixel front-facing camera, 4G LTE, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and a sleek ceramic case, and you’ve got one of the most remarkable mobile devices the world has ever seen.
In short, there probably hasn’t been a worse time than right now to buy a new Android phone and get locked in to a new two-year contract.
These next-generation Android phones will set a new precedent, and handsets that launch for the subsequent six to nine months will be playing catch-up. The chips within these new smartphones are faster, smaller and they consume power far more efficiently than the silicon that came before them. And while I haven’t yet had the opportunity to test the upcoming Galaxy S III, I have handled the One X and One S, and I can confidently say that they offer an end-to-end experience that is significantly better than what we see on the market today. The cameras alone, which are powered by a dedicated chip and are capable of capturing a RAW 8-megapixel image and returning to a ready state in just 0.7 seconds, are worth the wait.
These new smartphones will be slimmer, sleeker and more capable than anything on the market today, and they will still tout better battery life and more impressive performance. With HTC’s handsets ready to begin launching next month on AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, and the Galaxy S III set to be unveiled in April or May, Android fans would be wise to sit tight for now.