The 10 Coolest Smartphones of 2011 (So Far)

Handsets, Handsets and More Handsets

The smartphone wars may not be as acutely realized as they were in 2010 -- that, after all, was the year Google's Android announced itself as a viable competitor to iPhone, BlackBerry and the other dominant mobile OSes in the market. But that hardly means 2011 has been a dead zone for major smartphone releases.

At the halfway point of the year, here are 10 of the best smartphones that rose to the top of the pile and are deserving of closer attention.

Samsung Galaxy S II

Samsung has a good thing going with its Galaxy S line, whose original version was released on all of the major U.S. wireless carriers last year. The Galaxy S II, an Android unit running Android 2.3, aka Gingerbread, takes most of the original Galaxy S's best features and improves them that much more, from a 4.3-inch super AMOLED+ display, to a 1 Ghz processor dual core, to 21 Mbps HSPA+ support and an 8 megapixel camera. It's a lovely phone.

Motorola Droid Bionic

Remember when Motorola could draw all the smartphone attention into its orbit? Well, the days of the original Droid aren't that long ago, and Motorola Mobility is still scoring big with Droid-branded phones, particularly the Droid Bionic. It offers a 540x860 resolution, a 4.3-inch display, a dual-core 1 Ghz processor, an 8 megapixel camera, and support for 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) network, among other features. First announced at CES 2011, it's been a long wait for the Droid Bionic, but Verizon just this past week revealed a sign-up page for Droid Bionic updates, hinting that the wait might soon be over.


LG hasn't been the Android player many of its Android-based competitors are, but the T-Mobile-carried LG G2X -- a U.S. version of the existing LG Optimus 2X -- has a lot going for it. Start with a dual-core NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor, Android 2.2, support for T-Mobile's HSPA+ network, an 8-megapixel camera, a 4-inch display, and 1080p recording capability. Not. Bad. At. All.


Will 3D viewing on smartphones be a trend, or a momentary fad? HTC certainly hopes it's the former, and with its EVO 3D it's enabled the ability to watch and interact with 3D games and 3D video without needing special 3D glasses to do so. According to HTC, it uses two 5-megapixel cameras spaced apart to take pictures and record video simultaneously, displaying the input content on a 4.3-inch screen. As multimedia-rich phones go, users could do a lot worse.

HTC Arrive

As Sprint's first Windows 7 phone, the HTC Arrive is a solid entry into the category, and it's also the first Windows Phone 7 device to have shipped with Microsoft's cut-and-paste feature. A little bulky for some, it's still a strong entry in a category that could use a lot more sizzle among smartphone lovers. It has a 3.6-inch touchscreen, 5-megapixel camera, a wide selection of apps from Facebook to Pictures Hub, and a slide-out QWERTY keyboard.

Apple iPhone 4 (Verizon)

You can't argue with the iPhone juggernaut, and as Apple finally made the iPhone available on Verizon this year, an entire base of potential customers who swore they'd never go iPhone because of problems with AT&T opened up. You know the drill at this point, and it hasn't changed much on Verizon: 3.5-inch display, a 16 GB or 32 GB version, and a snazzy 960x640 resolution.

HTC Sensation 4G

HTC calls it "wow-worthy," and we're hard-pressed to disagree: a T-Mobile carried unit with a 4.3-inch display, super high definition (950 x 540) display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 1.2 Ghz processor, and 4G network enablement. Embedded within are HTC Watch and T-Mobile TV, both of which offer a full slate of media content, from movies to live TV on demand. Justly reviewed as one of HTC's best ever smartphones.

Samsung Infuse 4G

Advertised as having the largest touchscreen on any Samsung phone, the Infuse 4G has plenty of sparkle. It's also Samsung's thinnest smartphones, with a thinnest point of 8.99 mm. Access to Android apps a 4.5-inch super AMOLED+ screen, 4G capability, and a 2 GB microSD card that comes pre-loaded with movie trailers and other content help complete the package.

HTC Thunderbolt

It's a Verizon-carried unit, and has a lot in common with HTC phones like the Sprint-carried EVO 3G and the AT&T-carried Inspire 3G: a 4.3-inch WVGA display, 8-megapixel ca,era and dual-LD flash. But the Thunderbolt has its own spark, too: an integrated kickstand, a 1 Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, and other features that make it stand out among the newer HTC crop.

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play

It's billed as "a smartphone made for gamers," and a more accurate description hasn't been provided for a smartphone this year. The Xperia Play offers exclusive games run on an 800x480 resolution screen and a 1 Ghz Qualcomm processor, and while game-centric phones don't have a great track record, the Xperia has been earning rave reviews from Android devotees. Will it be the gamer phone that breaks through?